Evaluation of the role of calcium in irreversible sickling has been approached by treating sickled cells with calcium and the ionophore A23187. A calcium-dependent stabilization of the sickled cell shape was observed after reoxygenation of cells in the presence of ionophore. At low calcium concentrations, this retention of sickled shape was maintained for periods up to 1 hr. However, the morphology of the oxygen-stable sickled cells was like that of deoxygenated sickle cells and significantly different from the characteristic morphology of native irreversibly sickled cells (ISCs). Because the stabilized cells did not fulfill the morphological criterion for ISCs, the shape- stabilizing effect of calcium in this system did not provide additional support for the hypothesis that calcium accumulation was the determining factor in ISC generation.