Hemoglobin variants having electrophoretic mobility more rapid than that of HbA were identified in combination with sickle hemoglobin in two patients at the Cook County Hospital. Neither individual had symptomatic hematologic disease. In one patient, the rapidly migrating hemoglobin had the amino acid substitution characteristic of Hb Tacoma (beta-40 arg leads to ser), a mildly unstable variant. In the other patient, Hb Camden (beta-131 gln leads to glu) was identified, and the hematologic findings also indicated that he has alpha-thalassemia trait. In the patient with HbS-Camden--alpha-thalassemia, globin synthesis was unbalanced (alpha/beta 0.66), and HbS represented only 19.5% of the total hemoglobin. The latter finding suggests that under conditions of limited alpha-chain availability beta Camden may combine with alpha subunits at least as efficiently as does betaA. HbS represented 56% of the hemoglobin of the patient with HbS Tacoma, although the rate of synthesis of beta Tacoma by her reticulocytes was consistently greater than that of betaS. A time-course synthesis study demonstrated a progressive increase in the specific activity of beta Tacoma in relation to that of betaS, suggesting that the unstable beta- chains of Hb Tacoma underwent selective intracellular degradation. This process appears to explain the disparity between the rates of synthesis of the two beta chains and the relative representation of HbS and Hb Tacoma in the patient's erythrocytes.