A kindred with partial deficiency of red cell 2,3-diphosphoglycerate mutase (2,3-DPGM) was studied. The propositus presented with indirect hyperbilirubinemia, normal hemoglobin (15.8 g/dl), and elevated reticulocyte count (4.6%). The red cell 51Cr survival was decreased (tau1/2 16 days). Incubated osmotic fragility was normal; autohemolysis was increased and corrected with glucose and ATP. The P50 was 18.5 mm Hg (normal 25.5 +/- 3), but the stability, electrophoresis, and fingerprinting of hemoglobin were normal. The concentration of 2,3- diphosphoglycerate (2,3-DPG) was reduced to 43% of normal. Red cell 2,3- DPGM was decreased to 59% of normal; 2,3-DPG phosphatase was similarly decreased. All red cell glycolytic and hexose monophosphate shunt enzymes, glycolytic intermediates other than 2,3-DPG, and glucose consumption and lactate production were normal. Five family members showed similar hematologic findings. The deficiency appears to be secondary to decreased enzyme synthesis and to be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait in this family. Partial deficiency of 2,3-DPGM should now be considered in the differential diagnosis of compensated hemolysis associated with increased oxygen affinity.