To study the effect of sickling on dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC)-induced vesiculation, sickle (SS) red blood cells were incubated with sonicated suspensions of DMPC under either room air or nitrogen. Like normal red cells, when sickle cells were incubated with DMPC under oxygenated conditions, incorporation of DMPC into the erythrocyte membrane occurred, followed by echinocytic shape transformation and subsequent release of membrane vesicles. On the other hand, when SS cells were induced to sickle by deoxygenation, DMPC-induced vesiculation of these cells was dramatically reduced. However, upon reoxygenation, release of vesicles from these sickle erythrocytes occurred immediately. When SS cells were incubated under hypertonic (500 mosM) and deoxygenated conditions (where hemoglobin polymerization occurs but red cells do not show the typical sickle morphology), a similar decrease in the extent of vesiculation was observed. Experiments with radiolabelled lipid vesicles indicated that incorporation of DMPC into erythrocyte membranes occurred in all cases and therefore was not the limiting factor in the reduction of vesiculation in deoxygenated SS cells. Taken together, these results indicate that cellular viscosity and membrane rigidity, both of which are influenced by hemoglobin polymerization, are two important factors in process of vesicle release from sickle erythrocytes.