MDR1 (multidrug resistance) P-glycoprotein (Pgp; ABCB1) decreases intracellular concentrations of structurally diverse drugs. Although Pgp is generally thought to be an efflux transporter, the mechanism of action remains elusive. To determine whether Pgp confers drug resistance through changes in transmembrane potential (Em) or ion conductance, we studied electrical currents and drug transport in Pgp-negative MCF-7 cells and MCF-7/MDR1 stable transfectants that were established and maintained without chemotherapeutic drugs. Although Em and total membrane conductance did not differ between MCF-7 and MCF-7/MDR1 cells, Pgp reduced unidirectional influx and steady-state cellular content of Tc-Sestamibi, a substrate for MDR1 Pgp, without affecting unidirectional efflux of substrate from cells. Depolarization of membrane potentials with various concentrations of extracellular K+ in the presence of valinomycin did not inhibit the ability of Pgp to reduce intracellular concentration of Tc-Sestamibi, strongly suggesting that the drug transport activity of MDR1 Pgp is independent of changes in Em or total ion conductance. Tetraphenyl borate, a lipophilic anion, enhanced unidirectional influx of Tc-Sestamibi to a greater extent in MCF-7/MDR1 cells than in control cells, suggesting that Pgp may, directly or indirectly, increase the positive dipole potential within the plasma membrane bilayer. Overall, these data demonstrate that changes in E m or macroscopic conductance are not coupled with function of Pgp in multidrug resistance. The dominant effect of MDR1 Pgp in this system is reduction of drug influx, possibly through, an increase in intramembranous dipole potential.