Erythrocytes shed membrane vesicles in response to many stimuli. It has been previously demonstrated that glycan phosphatidylinositol-linked (GPI-linked) proteins such as decay accelerating factor and acetylcholinesterase are concentrated in these vesicles relative to the erythrocyte membrane. We have examined the requirement for GPI-linked proteins for the process of vesiculation. Erythrocytes that do not express GPI-linked proteins, obtained from patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), release between 10% and 50% of the quantity of vesicles as normal cells in response to the Ca2+ ionophore A23187. Platelets from the same patients produced 10% to 20% of the amount of vesicles as normal platelets. In addition, a mutant B- lymphoblastoid cell line that lacks GPI-linked molecules produces about half of the number of vesicles as compared with the wild-type cell line in response to the Ca2+ ionophore. Prior findings indicate that vesiculation is one of the mechanisms that the cell uses to remodel the plasma membrane, as well as protect itself from membrane-damaging agents such as the terminal complement components C5b-9. On the basis of the present results, we conclude that GPI-linked proteins play an important role in membrane vesiculation.