A simple in vivo technique of labeling erythrocytes (RBCs) with 55Fe was developed for quantitative autoradiography (QAR). This procedure involved injecting 5-6 ml of [55Fe]ferrous citrate solution (1 mCi/ml) intraperitoneally into donor rats. The number of labeled RBCs reached a maximum at around 7 days and declined very slowly thereafter. Labeled RBCs were harvested from donor rats and used for RBC volume measurement in awake rats. Brain radioactivity was assayed by QAR, which yielded spatial resolution of greater than 50 microns. Tight nearly irreversible binding of 55Fe to RBCs was found in vivo and in vitro. More than 99.5% of the 55Fe in the blood of donor rats was bound to RBCs. Because of this, labeled blood can be taken from donors and injected into recipients without further preparation. The tissue absorption of 55Fe emissions was the same in gray and white matter. Microvascular RBC volumes measured with 55Fe-labeled RBCs agreed with those assayed with 51Cr-labeled RBCs for many, but not all, brain areas. In conclusion, 55Fe-RBCs can be readily prepared by this technique and accurately quantitated in brain tissue by QAR.