In vivo age-related changes in membrane fluidity of erythrocytes were investigated by a spin label method after fractionation of the cells by discontinuous density gradient centrifugation. Membrane fluidity was lower in older than in younger erythrocytes in both the normal and diabetic subjects. Cells from diabetic subjects showed a significantly lower level of membrane fluidity for all three age groups (younger, middle and older) than the corresponding cells from normal subjects. The magnitude of progression in the decrease in membrane fluidity in erythrocytes did not differ significantly between both groups of subjects. Both erythrocyte ATP and acetylcholinesterase activity declined, while glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) increased with cell age in both groups of subjects. The HbA1c level in each corresponding fraction was higher in diabetic subjects than normal subjects, but was not correlated with membrane fluidity in either group. Neither the ATP level nor acetylcholinesterase activity in each corresponding fraction differed between groups. Membrane fluidity was significantly correlated with acetylcholinesterase activity in both normal and diabetic subjects. Our results indicate that decreased erythrocyte membrane fluidity in diabetic patients does not form gradually during their life span but develops soon after the cells enter the circulation or during their maturation in the bone marrow.