Multiple selections with either vinblastine or vincristine in the human ovarian carcinoma cell line SKOV3 resulted in variants with increasing degrees of multidrug resistance. SKOV3 derivatives that span a wide range in resistance (4- to 2000-fold) were obtained and analyzed for P-glycoprotein expression. In general, we observed a progressive increase in P-glycoprotein level (detected by Western blot) that paralleled the increase in multidrug resistance. However, a more detailed analysis of the P-glycoprotein mRNA and gene level indicated that the amount of P-glycoprotein expressed may be under complex control. At low levels of resistance, only an increase in P-glycoprotein mRNA and protein was observed. At intermediate to high levels of resistance P-glycoprotein gene amplification became evident. At the high level of resistance, an example was observed where only the amount of P-glycoprotein was increased without a concomitant increase in mRNA or gene copy. The mechanisms through which the content of P-glycoprotein in the plasma membrane is mediated are not understood; it is possible that the resistant variants identified here represent perturbations at different levels of regulation.