The ring-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (RESA) associates with spectrin in the erythrocyte membrane (Foley, M., Tilley, L., Sawyer, W. H. and Anders, R. F. (1991) Mol. Biochem. Parasitol., 46, 137-148). A fragment of the RESA protein, which was expressed in Escherichia coli, was found to bind to inside-out vesicles of erythrocyte membranes in an apparently saturable manner. Upon extraction of inside-out vesicles with Triton X-100, the RESA fragment remained associated with the erythrocyte cytoskeleton. Using the technique of steady-state fluorescence polarisation, we have studied the thermal denaturation of fluorescein-labelled spectrin in the presence of recombinant RESA. We found that the RESA fragment partially protected spectrin against heat-induced conformational changes. Furthermore, erythrocytes infected with a RESA (-) laboratory strain (FCR3) were shown to be more susceptible to heat-induced fragmentation than erythrocytes infected with a RESA (+) strain of the parasite. RESA does not, however, appear to play an essential role in the invasion process per se as erythrocytes resealed to contain anti-RESA antibodies were efficiently invaded.