The metabolic behaviour of human erythrocytes has been investigated with particular regard to the effect of their oxygenation state. Experiments performed at high phosphate concentration (80 mM) within the pH range 7.0-7.8 on erythrocytes at high (HOS) and low (LOS) oxygen saturation showed that at any pH value: (1) glucose consumption was independent of the oxygenation state; (2) pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) flux was about 2 times higher in the HOS than in the LOS state. At low phosphate concentration (1.0 mM) the PPP flux doubled in HOS as well as in LOS erythrocytes, whereas the decrease in glucose consumption was more marked in the HOS state. Metabolism of LOS erythrocytes approached that of HOS erythrocytes under the following conditions: (1) erythrocytes having band 3 modified by 4,4'-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2'-disulphonic acid; (2) CO-saturated erythrocytes. These data support the hypothesis of a modulation of the relative rates of PPP and glycolysis achieved through competition between deoxy-hemoglobin (deoxy-Hb) and glycolytic enzymes for the cytoplasmic domain of band 3.