We have characterized a gene encoding an Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) Binding Cassette (ABC) transmembrane protein from Trichomonas vaginalis, an early-diverging protozoan parasite. This gene, Tvpgp1, encodes a 589-amino acid protein with an amino-terminal hydrophobic region, 6 potential membrane-spanning segments and a carboxy-terminal ATP binding site. Tvpgp1 is most similar in sequence to mammalian P-glycoproteins, 170 kDa transport proteins which are frequently overexpressed in multiple drug-resistant (Mdr) tumor cell lines. However, Tvpgp1 is half the size of typical P-glycoproteins which are tandem duplications. These data suggest that the duplication/fusion events which gave rise to the bipartite structure comprised of 2 similar halves which characterize eukaryotic P-glycoproteins may have occurred after the divergence of trichomonads (Parabasalia) from the main line of eukaryotic evolutionary descent. We have examined 7 metronidazole resistant strains of T. vaginalis to determine whether the Tvpgp1 gene is overexpressed or amplified. 2 drug resistant strains show a 2-3-fold overexpression and one shows a 20-fold overexpression of Tvpgp mRNA. The gene is not amplified in any of the drug resistant strains. On the contrary, 4 of the 7 resistant strains lack one of 2 Tvpgp genes found in drug-sensitive strains.