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One challenge of modern biology is to be able to match genes and their encoded proteins with events at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organism levels, and thus, provide a multi-level understanding of gene function and dysfunction. How well this can be done for xenobiotic transporters depends on a knowledge of the genes expressed in the tissue, the cellular locations of the gene products (do they function for uptake or efflux?), and our ability to match substrates with transporters using information obtained from cloned transporters functioning in heterologous expression systems. Clearly, making a rational choice of expression system to use for the characterization and study of cloned xenobiotic transporters is a critical part of study design. This choice requires well-defined goals, as well as an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of candidate expression systems.