Red blood cells from 31 healthy donors were examined for the cholesterol content, the fatty acid composition, and the susceptibility to lipid peroxidation induced by either hydrogen peroxide or phenylhydrazine. Lipid peroxidation was monitored by the release of pentane and ethane. In addition, plasma fatty acids were measured in order to find out, whether plasma and red cell fatty acids were correlated. In experiments with hydrogen peroxide, a significant positive correlation was found between the proportion of arachidonic acid (C 20:4n - 6; r = 0.57, p less than 0.01) and docosahexaenoic acid (C 22:6n - 3; r = +0.71, p less than 0.01), and the release of pentane and ethane, respectively. A significant negative correlation was found between the membrane cholesterol content and the pentane release (r -0.44, p less than 0.05). In experiments performed with phenylhydrazine, red cell membrane lipid composition did not influence the susceptibility of red cells to lipid peroxidation. A close correlation was found between plasma and red cell fatty acids (palmitic acid, r = +0.46, p less than 0.01; linoleic acid, r = +0.41, p less than 0.05; arachidonic acid, r = +0.59, p less than 0.01; docosahexaenoic acid, r = +0.67, p less than 0.01). The results demonstrated that the degree of peroxide-induced oxidation of erythrocyte lipids depends on the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the membrane, which on the other hand, is determined by plasma fatty acids. It is suggested that dietary variations may influence the susceptibility of red cells to lipid peroxidation.