The in vitro intracellular daunorubicin accumulation (IDA) of blast cells from 69 patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) was correlated with the expression and functional activity of the multidrug resistance (MDR) proteins, P-glycoprotein (Pgp), multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP) and lung-resistance protein (LRP). An inverse and significant association was found between IDA and Pgp-related efflux activity (r = −0.31, P = 0.01) and also MRP (r = −0.25, P = 0.04) but not with LRP (r = −0.13, P = 0.28). Coexpression of the MDR proteins had an additive effect in further lowering of IDA levels, suggesting that the clinical MDR phenotype is dependent on the sum of multiple MDR factors available to the leukaemic cell. Thus, the median IDA of leukaemic cells without any MDR proteins was significantly higher than that of blasts carrying two MDR proteins (0.466 vs. 0.296, P = 0.046). Seven patients with no expression of Pgp, MRP and LRP still had low IDA levels, suggesting the presence of efflux MDR mechanisms other than those studied. The relation of IDA to clinical parameters known to be associated with poor prognosis, such as age, secondary AML, karyotype, peripheral blood blast and CD34 counts, was also studied, but no significance was found on multifactorial analysis. There was a non-significant trend for earlier relapse in patients with low IDA levels (leukaemia-free survival of 16.3 months compared with 21.1 months in patients with high IDA levels). Our data suggest that, while the IDA assay is a quick and relatively easy test for the combined efflux MDR phenotype, it is unable to detect other MDR mechanisms, such as LRP, which may be important to the clinical outcome of patients with AML.