A lack of methods capable of exploring real-time intracellular drug deposition has since limited the investigation of gemcitabine-induced multidrug resistance in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, resistance induced by D-luciferin, a substrate of the breast cancer resistance protein (ABCG2/BCRP), has recently attracted clinical attention, but further investigation has been limited. Herein, the intracellular pharmacokinetic behavior of D-luciferin was investigated in pancreatic cancer cell lines in real time by using bioluminescence imaging. To achieve this feat, BxPC3luc and Panc1luc pancreatic cancer cells overexpressing firefly luciferase were treated with gemcitabine in a dose and time gradient manner in vitro. The intracellular pharmacokinetic profiles of each group were then determined through the acquisition of bioluminescent signal intensity of D-luciferin in cells. Simultaneously, key pharmacokinetic parameters including area under the curve, elimination rate constant (K), and mean resident time were calculated according to the noncompartment model. ABCG2 protein levels following gemcitabine treatment were detected through western blot, and gemcitabine showed no significant effect on luciferase activity over dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as a control (P>0.05). However, gemcitabine significantly increased K values while suppressing area under the curve and mean resident time compared with DMSO (P<0.05) and increased ABCG2 expression over DMSO-treated cells. In addition, gemcitabine increased the elimination rate of the ABCG2 substrate, D-luciferin, and decreased D-luciferin accumulation in BxPC3luc and Panc1luc cells in a dose–response manner. Advances made herein illustrate the versatility of the in-vitro bioluminescent model and its capability to observe the onset of chemoresistance in real time.