Previously, we described the expression of an energy-dependent pump in resting murine Th2 (but not resting Th1) cells which extruded the fluorescent dye Fluo-3. After stimulation with Ag and APCs, Th1 cells also expressed this pump. Furthermore, expression of the murine multidrug resistance protein 1 (mrp1) correlated with the presence of the pump. In this study, we report that Fluo-3 is indeed transported by murine mrp1 or its human ortholog MRP1, as revealed by transfection of HEK 293 cells with mrp1 or MRP1 cDNA. Like antigenic activation, IL-2 dose-dependently enhanced the Fluo-3-extruding activity in murine Th1 cells. Although TNF-alpha and IL-12 by themselves only weakly enhanced Fluo-3 extrusion, each of them did so in strong synergism with IL-2. An Ab directed against mrp1 was used to quantify the expression of mrp1 protein in T cells at the single-cell level. Like the Fluo-3 pump, mrp1 protein expression was enhanced by IL-2. Immunohistochemical studies using confocal laser microscopy indicated that mrp1 is localized mainly at the plasma membrane. In addition, protein expression of mrp1 was induced in Vbeta8+CD4+ T cells 12 h after in vivo application of Staphylococcal enterotoxin B. Finally, mrp1 was functionally relevant during the activation process of Th1 cells, because T cell activation could be suppressed by exposure of cells to the mrp1 inhibitor MK571. Thus, we present mrp1 as a novel, functionally important activation marker for Th1 cells and short-term in vivo activated CD4+ T cells, whereas its expression seems to be constitutive in Th2 cells.