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We aimed to investigate effects of insulin on function and expression of P-glycoprotein (P-GP) in the blood–brain barrier of streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. Brain-to-plasma concentration ratio of vincristine (VCR) in rats was used as an indicator of in vivo function of P-GP. Western blot and quantitative real time-polymerase chain reaction were used to determine protein levels of P-GP and its mdr1a/mdr1b mRNA levels, respectively, in cerebral cortex of rats. In vitro effects of insulin on function and expression of P-GP in primarily cultured rat brain microvessel endothelial cells (rBMECs) were evaluated using rhodamine 123 (Rho123) uptakes and Western blot, respectively. The results showed that 3- and 5-week insulin treatment alleviated the impaired efflux function, expression and mdr1a/mdr1b mRNA levels of P-GP in cerebral cortex of diabetic rats. The 3- and 5-week insulin treatments also significantly enhanced P-GP levels and mdr1a/mdr1b mRNA levels in the cerebral cortex of normal rats. Addition of insulin to the insulin-deficient diabetic rat serum normalized the impaired function and expression of P-GP in rBMECs cultured in diabetic rat serum. When incubated with normal culture medium containing different levels of insulin, the rBMECs exhibited the enhanced P-GP levels and the reduced Rho123 uptake in a concentration-dependent manner. So we may conclude that appropriate level of insulin plays an important role in maintaining the normal function of BBB through regulating the function and expression of P-GP in the diabetic and normal rats.