Fluorescence in red cells following hydrogen peroxide treatment has been attributed to lipid peroxidation of the membrane. The putative relationship between lipid peroxidation and fluorescence was questioned by the finding that BHT and α-tocopherol, which are thought to inhibit lipid peroxidation, do not inhibit the fluorescence detected by flow cytometry. Furthermore, lipid peroxidation induced in red cells by the Fe(III)-ADP-ascorbate system did not produce fluorescence. These results require an alternative explanation for the hydrogen peroxide-induced fluorescence. A role for reduced hemoglobin is indicated by the inhibition of fluorescence by pretreatment of cells with CO that binds strongly to ferrohemoglobin and nitrite that oxidizes ferrohemoglobin. Our earlier studies have shown the formation of fluorescent heme degradation products during the reaction of purified hemoglobin with hydrogen peroxide, which was also inhibited by CO and nitrite pretreatment. The fluorescence produced in red cells after the addition of hydrogen peroxide can, therefore, be attributed to fluorescent heme degradation products. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.