We have recently shown that rosetting of Plasmodium falciparum (MC R+ line)-infected erythrocytes (parasitized red blood cells [PRBCs]) with uninfected erythrocytes (RBCs) is blocked by coating of the RBCs with anti-CD36 monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs; Handunnetti et al, Blood 80:2097, 1992). Adult RBCs have previously been considered negative for CD36. However, using fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis with the anti-CD36 MoAbs 8A6, OKM5, and OKM8, which reverse rosetting, we consistently detect CD36 on the majority of normal adult RBCs. Absorption of the MoAb solutions with CD36-transfected Chinese hamster ovary (CHO-CD36) cells removed the reactivity against both CHO-CD36 cells and RBCs, whereas absorption with CHO cells had no effect. By comparison with staining for glycophorin A, LFA-3, and CR1, the level of expression of CD36 appeared to be low. Nevertheless, normal RBCs were capable of adhering to plastic coated with anti-CD36 MoAbs. RBCs from one African malaria patient were identified as deficient in CD36 and these RBCs did not rosette with the patient's own P falciparum PRBCs, even though these PRBCs were capable of rosetting with RBCs from a normal donor in a CD36-dependent manner. Therefore, the level of expression of CD36 on normal RBCs is sufficient to be important in cell adherence, and may have a biologic role in normal individuals as well as in the pathology of P falciparum malaria.