Intact erythrocytes placed into the tracheobronchial tree of hyperoxic rats dramatically improved their chances for survival. Over 70 percent of the animals so treated survived more than 12 days during continuous exposure to 95 percent oxygen, whereas all of the control animals died within 96 hours. Lungs from erythrocyte-protected rats showed almost none of the morphologic damage suffered by untreated animals. Erythrocytes containing cyanomethemoglobin were as benefi-cial as normal erythrocytes, but cells in which glutathione was partially blocked were significantly less protective. Analogous results were obtained in vitro: 51Cr-labeled target cells released 70 to 90 percent of their label when exposed briefly to hydrogen peroxide or to toxic oxygen species generated by phorbol ester-stimulated neutrophils. Addition of intact erythrocytes decreased release by approximately 75 percent, but significantly less than this if red blood cell glutathione was partially blocked. These results suggest that insufflated erythrocytes, through their recyclable glutathione, protect rats from toxic oxygen species engendered by hyperoxia.