The kinetics of electrically induced fusion of human erythrocyte ghosts were monitored by the Tb/DPA and ANTS/DPX fluorescence fusion assays. Ghosts were aligned by dielectrophoresis using a 3-MHz 350-V/cm alternating field and were fused by single 15- or 50-microseconds electric field pulses of amplitude 2.5-5.0 kV/cm. Fusion was detected immediately after the pulse. The peak fluorescence change due to fusion was always obtained within 7 s of pulse application, and was highest for a 5.0 kV/cm 15-microseconds pulse. Probe leakage was measured separately and became apparent only 2-3 s after the initiation of fusion. Increasing pulse amplitudes produced higher fusion yields but produced more leakage from the fusion products. 50-microseconds pulses produced less fusion, resulting from a disruption of the dielectrophoretic alignment by fluid turbulence immediately after pulse application. Probe leakage was observed only when pulse application was preceded by dielectrophoresis, suggesting that close membrane positioning allows for additional membrane destabilization caused by the high field pulse. The fluorescence kinetics are interpreted using a simplified model depicting three major types of events: (a) fusion without observable leakage, (b) fusion followed by probe leakage, and (c) contact-related leakage from ghosts which do not undergo contents mixing.