Mutant p53 accumulation has been shown to induce the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1) and ATP binding cassette (ABC)-based drug efflux in human breast cancer cells. In the present work, we have found that transcriptional activation of the oxidative stress-responsive heat shock factor 1 (HSF-1) and expression of heat shock proteins, including Hsp27, which is normally known to augment proteasomal p53 degradation, are inhibited in Adriamycin (doxorubicin)-resistant MCF-7 cells (MCF-7/adr). Such an endogenous inhibition of HSF-1 and Hsp27 in turn results in p53 mutation with gain of function in its transcriptional activity and accumulation in MCF-7/adr. Also, lack of HSF-1 enhances nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) DNA binding activity together with mutant p53 and induces MDR1 gene and P-glycoprotein (P-gp, ABCB1), resulting in a multidrug-resistant phenotype. Ectopic expression of Hsp27, however, significantly depleted both mutant p53 and NF-κB (p65), reversed the drug resistance by inhibiting MDR1/P-gp expression in MCF-7/adr cells, and induced cell death by increased G(2)/M population and apoptosis. We conclude from these results that HSF-1 inhibition and depletion of Hsp27 is a trigger, at least in part, for the accumulation of transcriptionally active mutant p53, which can either directly or NF-κB-dependently induce an MDR1/P-gp phenotype in MCF-7 cells. Upon Hsp27 overexpression, this pathway is abrogated, and the acquired multidrug resistance is significantly abolished so that MCF-7/adr cells are sensitized to Dox. Thus, clinical alteration in Hsp27 or NF-κB level will be a potential approach to circumvent drug resistance in breast cancer.