Previous studies from our laboratories have shown that transgenic mice expressing high levels of beta S globin are well-protected from Plasmodium chabaudi adami and partially protected against P berghei (Shear et al, Blood 81:222, 1993). We have now infected transgenic mice expressing low (39%), intermediate (57%), and high (75%) levels of beta S with the virulent strain of P yoelii (17XL) that appears to cause cerebral malaria. We find that the level of protection in these three groups of mice correlates positively with the level of beta S chain expression in the mice. Seven of nine mice expressing the high level of beta S recovered from infection, as did 7 of 9 mice expressing the intermediate level of beta S. Control mice and mice expressing the lower level of beta S all succumbed to infection. In mice expressing high and intermediate levels of beta S, parasites were found almost exclusively in reticulocytes during recovery, suggesting that mature red blood cells expressing beta S are more resistant than reticulocytes. These studies confirm epidemiologic data and offer insight into the mechanism of protection of sickle trait individuals against falciparum malaria.