Abstract Intact erythrocytes were spin-labeled with various classes of phospholipid label. The ESR spectrum for phosphatidylcholine spin label was distinctly different from those for phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylglycerol and phosphatidic acid spin labels. The overall splitting for the former (52.5 G) was markedly larger than those for the others (approx. 47 G), suggesting a more rigid phosphatidylcholine bilayer phase and more fluid phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine phases in the erythrocyte membrane. Evidence for asymmetric distribution of phospholipids in the membrane was obtained. Spin-labeled phosphatidylcholine incorporated into erythrocytes was reduced immediately by cystein and Fe 3+, while the reduction of spin-labeled phosphatidylserine was very slow. The present results therefore suggest asymmetric fluidity in erythrocyte membrane; a more rigid outer layer and a more fluid inner layer. The heterogeneity in the lipid structure was also manifested in the temperature dependence of the fluidity. The overall splitting for phosphatidylcholine spin label showed two inflection points at 18 and 33 °C, while that for phosphatidylserine spin label had only one transition at 30 °C. When the spin-labeled erythrocytes were hemolyzed, the marked difference in the ESR spectra disappeared, indicating homogenization of the heterogeneous fluidity. Mg 2+ or Mg 2+ + ATP prevented the hemolysis-induced spectral changes. Ca 2+ did not prevent the homogenization and acted antagonistically to Mg 2+. The heterogeneity preservation by Mg 2+ was nullified by trypsin, pronase or N- ethylmaleimide added inside the cell. Some inner proteins may therefore be involved in maintaining the heterogeneous structure. The protecting action of Mg 2+ was dependent on hemolysis temperature, starting to decrease at 18 °C and vanishing at 40 °C. The present study suggests that the heterogeneity in the fluidity of intact erythrocyte membranes arises from interactions between lipids and proteins in the membrane and also from interactions between the membrane constituents and the inner proteins. Concentration of cholesterol in the outer layer may also partly contribute to the heterogeneity.