The action of snake venom phospholipases A2 in intact human erythrocytes was investigated in detail. The basis phospholipase from Agkistrodon halys blomhifii was found to induce both hydrolysis of membrane phospholipids and total cell hemolysis under certain experimental conditions. The hydrolytic action of the basic enzyme was found to consist of two sequential events: (a) hydrolysis of 70% of the total cell ph osphatidylcholine without any evident hemolysis; and (b) complete hydrolysis of the remaining phosphatidylcholine, followed closely by extensive phosphatidylethanolamine hydrolysis and finally with onset of hemolysis, attack on the phosphatidylserine. At pH 7.4 and 10 mM Ca2+ only stage (a) occurred. However, a slight elevation of the pH of incubation to pH 8.0 and/or inclusion of 40 mM Ca2+ in the reaction mixture caused both events (a) and (b) to occur. The addition of glucose limited the action of the enzyme to stage (a) under any reaction conditions. An investigation showed that enzymically induced hemolysis occurred under conditions where the intracellular ATP levels were lowered. Data are presented which suggest that stage (b) is mediated by in influx of Ca2+ into the cell when the levels of ATP are low. Interestingly the phosphllipase from Naja naja venom (Pakistan) yielded results similar to those observed with the basic enzyme from Agkistrodon venom. However, the enzyme from Crotalus adamanteus and the acidic enzyme also present in the Agkistrodon venom produced only slight hydrolysis or hemolysis under any of the conditions studied. Other species of erythrocytes, e.g., guinea pig, monkey, pig, and rat, were tested but only those from guinea pig behaved similarly to the human cells. Pig, monkey, and rat erythrocytes underwent very limited hydrolysis and hemolysis. It is evident that the use of these phospholipases to probe the localization of phospholipds in erythrocyte membranes must be approached with caution. Certain facets of this problem are discussed.