Multidrug resistance proteins [MRPs and P-glycoprotein (Pgp)] are members of the family of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transport proteins, originally described as being involved in the resistance against anti-cancer agents in tumour cells. These proteins act as ATP-dependent efflux pumps and have now been described in normal cells where they exert physiological roles. The aim of this work was to investigate the expression and activity of MRP and Pgp in the thymoma cell line, EL4. It was observed that EL4 cells expressed mRNA for MRP1, but not for MRP2, MRP3 or Pgp. The activity of ABC transport proteins was evaluated by using the efflux of the fluorescent probes carboxy-2′-7′-dichlorofluorescein diacetate (CFDA) and rhodamine 123 (Rho 123). EL4 cells did not retain CFDA intracellularly, and MRP inhibitors (probenecid, indomethacin and MK 571) decreased MRP1 activity in a concentration-dependent manner. As expected, EL4 cells accumulated Rho 123, and the presence of cyclosporin A and verapamil did not modify this accumulation. Most importantly, when EL4 cells were incubated in the presence of the MRP1 inhibitors indomethacin and MK 571 for 6 days, they started to express CD4 and CD8 molecules on their surface, producing double-positive cells and CD8 single-positive cells. Our results suggest that MRP activity is important for the maintenance of the undifferentiated state in this cell type. This finding might have implications in the physiological process of normal thymocyte maturation.