Procaine hydrochloric acid, a cationic anesthetic, although unable to prevent the effect of calcium ionophore A23187 on erythrocytes, inhibited the discocyte--echinocyte transformation, increased viscosity, and decreased filterability of red cells undergoing ATP depletion. The effects were abolished by washing ATP-depleted, procaine HCl-treated red cells prior to these determinations. Procaine HCl had no effects on volume, incubated osmotic fragility, or monovalent cation composition of ATP-depleted red cells. The drug increased 45Ca uptake by ATP-depleted red cells but did not change the fraction of membrane- bound calcium. Sodium dodecyl sulfate acrylamide gel electrophoresis of membrane proteins from ATP-depleted red cells revealed formation of high molecular weight protein complexes, which were not formed when biconcave shape and ATP content were maintained by incubation with adenine (0.54 mM) and inosine (12.7 mM); Formation of these complexes was not prevented when the biconcave shape was maintained by procaine HCl. It was concluded that the maintenance of the biconcave shape and normal deformability during ATP depletion by procaine HCl was not related to a displacement of membrane-bound calcium and inhibition of ATP-dependent rearrangement of red cell membrane proteins.