The roles of multi-drug resistance protein 1 (MDR1), multi-drug resistance related protein 1 (MRP1), lung resistance protein (LRP) and breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) in the multi-drug resistance (MDR) of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) were studied. By exposing HepG2 cell line to progressively increased concentrations of adriamycin (ADM), HepG2 multi-drug resistant subline (HepG2/ADM) was induced. The MDR index of HepG2/ADM was detected by using MTT. The expressions of the four MDR proteins in the three cell lines (L02, HepG2, HepG2/ADM) were investigated at mRNA and protein levels by real-time RT-PCR and Western blot respectively. Our results showed that when the ADM concentration was under 100 microg/L, HepG2 could easily be induced to be drug-resistant. The IC(50) of the HepG2/ADM to ADM was 282 times that of HepG2. The expression of MDR1 and BCRP mRNA in HepG2/ADM cells were 400 and 9 times that of HepG2 cells respectively while there was no difference in the mRNA expressions of MRP1 and LRP. There was no difference between HepG2 and L02 cells in the mRNA expressions of the four genes. At the protein level, the expressions of MDR1, BCRP and LRP but MRP1 in HepG2/ADM were significantly higher than those of HepG2 and L02. Between HepG2 and L02, there was no difference in the expressions of four genes at the protein level. HepG2/ADM is a good model for the study of MDR. The four genes are probably the normally expressed gene in liver. The expressions of MDR1 and BCRP could be up-regulated by anti-cancer agents in vitro. The MDR of HCC was mainly due to the up-regulation of MDR1 and BCRP but MRP1 and LRP. These findings suggest they may serve as targets for the reversal of MDR of HCC.