In this work we have examined the effect of the oral administration of propionyl-L-carnitine (PLC) on the membrane phospholipid fatty acid turnover of erythrocytes from streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. A statistically significant reduction in radioactive palmitate, oleate, and linoleate, but not arachidonate, incorporation into membrane phosphatidylcholine (PC) of diabetic rat erythrocytes with respect to control animals was found. Changes in radioactive fatty acid incorporation were also found in diabetic red cell phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), though they were not statistically significant. Oral propionyl-L-carnitine (PLC) treatment of diabetic rats partially restored the ability of intact red cells to reacylate membrane PC with palmitate and oleate, and reacylation with linoleate was fully restored. The analysis of the membrane phospholipid fatty acid composition revealed a consistent increase of linoleate levels in diabetic rat red cells, a modest decrease of palmitate, oleate and arachidonate. The phospholipid fatty acid composition of diabetic red blood cells was not affected by the PLC treatment. Lysophosphatidylcholine acyl-CoA transferase (LAT) specific activity measured with either palmitoyl-CoA or oleyl-CoA was significantly reduced in diabetic erythrocyte membranes in comparison to controls. In addition, LAT kinetic parameters of diabetic erythrocytes were altered. The reduced LAT activity could be partially corrected by PLC treatment of diabetic rats. Our data suggest that the impaired erythrocyte membrane physiological expression induced by the diabetic disease may be attenuated by the beneficial activity of PLC on the red cell membrane phospholipid fatty acid turnover.