The plasma membrane remodeling, including the early transverse redistribution of phosphatidylserine, is a general feature occurring in cells in which a death program has been induced. In most cases, studies of this kind have focused mainly on cells. In this study, we report a clear correlation between the degree of apoptosis induced by a variety of agents in several types of cultured cells and the amount of shed membrane microparticles captured in the corresponding supernatants by insolubilized annexin V, a protein showing a strong affinity for phosphatidylserine. Such particles carry membrane antigens specific of the cells they stem from, and through which capture is also feasible. Homologous circulating microparticles were captured in peripheral blood from individuals with HIV-1 infection. A substantial proportion bore CD4 antigen. In some cases, CD4+ particles could be detected even in the absence of circulating CD4+ T cells, testifying to the presence of such resident cells in lymphoid tissues. These results suggest that shed membrane particles are one of the hallmarks of programmed cell death, of particular interest when the corresponding cells are hardly accessible.