The effect of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) on the circulation time of liposomes in mice was examined by employing amphipathic PEGs (phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) derivatives of PEG) with average molecular weights of 1000, 2000, 5000 and 12,000. The activity of dioleoyl phosphatidylethanolamine-PEG (DOPE-PEG) in prolonging the circulation time of egg phosphatidylcholine/cholesterol large unilamellar liposomes (ePC/CH LUVs) (200 nm) was proportional to the molecular weight of PEG, i.e., 12000 = 5000 greater than 2000 greater than 1000. On the other hand, inclusion of distearoylphosphatidylethanolamine-PEG (DSPE-PEG) or dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-PEG (DPPE-PEG) of low molecular weight such as 1000 and 2000 in distearoylphosphatidylcholine (DSPC)/CH LUVs or dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC)/CH LUVs effectively increased their blood circulation time. At least 3 mol% of amphipathic PEG in liposomes was required for activity. Addition of CH, which has a bilayer-tightening effect, to DSPC/CH/DSPE-PEG2000 LUVs further increased the blood residence time. A size of less than 300 nm was essential for prolonging the residence time of amphipathic PEG-containing liposomes in blood. DSPC/CH/DSPE-PEG2000 LUVs (1:1:0.13, m/m) containing 6 mol% of PEG and 200 nm in diameter remained in the circulation for over 24 h after injection and may be clinically useful for sustained release of an entrapped drug in the bloodstream and for drug accumulation in solid tumors.