We previously reported that liposomes containing glycophorin or gangliosides, both of which were isolated from human erythrocytes, are efficiently fused to erythrocyte membranes in the presence of HVJ (Umeda, M. et al., J. Biochem. 94, 1955-1966 (1983), and Virology 133, 172-182 (1984]. In the present work, the effect of lipid composition in glycophorin liposomes on their sensitivity to fusion with erythrocytes was studied. Very little fusion occurred when glycophorin liposomes composed of dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine-dicetylphosphate (9:1), dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine-dicetylphosphate (9:1), or egg yolk phosphatidylcholine-dicetylphosphate (9:1) were incubated with human erythrocytes in the presence of HVJ at 37 degrees C. Addition of cholesterol into these liposomal membranes greatly enhanced the sensitivity of the liposomes to fusion. The presence of phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylethanolamine in liposomes also enhanced the sensitivity, whereas the presence of lysophosphatidylcholine had no significant effect on the ability of the liposomes to fuse. The fusion efficiency of liposomes was also enhanced by the presence of glucosylceramide. Change of lipid composition in liposomes had, however, no appreciable influence on the HVJ-mediated binding of liposomes to erythrocytes, suggesting that the interaction between HANA protein of HVJ and glycophorin in liposomes was not affected by the lipid composition of the liposomes.