Previously we have described a novel multidrug-resistant cell line, HT29(col), which displayed over expression of the multidrug-resistance protein 1 (MRP1) and an altered sphingolipid composition, including enhanced levels of glucosylceramide (GlcCer; Kok JW, Veldman RJ, Klappe K, Koning H, Filipeanu C, Muller M. Int J Cancer 2000;87:172-8). In our study, long-term screening revealed that, during colchicine-induced acquisition of multidrug resistance in a new HT29col cell line, increases in GlcCer occurred concomitantly with upregulation of MRP1 expression. Both MRP1 and GlcCer were found enriched in Lubrol-insoluble membrane domains. The expression of MRP1 and GlcCer were tightly correlated, as indicated also by a reversal of both at the later stage of colchicine consolidation. Resistance to colchicine was determined by MRP1, while glucosylceramide synthase (GCS) did not contribute: 1) Resistance was fully inhibited by MK571.2) GCS expression and activity were not upregulated in HT29col cells. 3) Inhibition of GCS did not affect MRP1-mediated efflux function or sensitivity to colchicine. Instead, overall sphingolipid metabolism was upregulated through an increased rate of ceramide biosynthesis. In conclusion, upregulation of MRP1 occurs in concert with upregulation of GlcCer during multidrug-resistance acquisition, and both are enriched in rafts. The increased GlcCer pool does not directly modulate MRP1 function and cell survival. (C) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.