Abstract The aim of this study was to examine the expression of P-glycoprotein (Pgp) and MDR1 mRNA, in gall bladder carcinoma, a chemo-resistant tumour. 26 cases of gall bladder cancer and nine samples of normal gall bladder archival paraffin blocks were investigated for the presence of Pgp protein with immunohistochemistry (IHC) and MDR1 RNA by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR). Monoclonal antibodies JSB-1 and UIC-2, recognising separate epitopes of Pgp, were used for IHC. For RT–PCR, total RNA was extracted from paraffin-embedded tissue. After RT, the samples were subjected to nested PCR (NPCR) using primers specific for the MDR1 gene, and evaluated by electrophoresis. In gall bladder carcinoma, the percentage of positive cases expressing Pgp (77% for JSB-1, 69% for UIC-2) and MDR1 mRNA (52%) was significantly higher than those in normal gall bladder. In earlier TNM stages Pgp and MDR1 mRNA were more frequently expressed (non-significant) than in advanced stages. The results of this study suggested that overexpression of MDR1 mRNA and Pgp in gall bladder carcinoma tissue probably is a very important reason why gall bladder cancer is generally not responsive to chemotherapy.