The transgenic mouse system provides an in vivo setting in which to examine the effects on mouse red cells of hemoglobin genes that have been genetically introduced into the animals' genome. In this report, we have analyzed the cellular properties of red cells from homozygous beta-thalassemic mice (Hbbth-1/Hbbth-1), homozygous beta-thalassemic transgenic mice containing a human beta-sickle (beta(s)) gene (Hbb(th-1)/Hbb(th-1) + beta(s)), and normal animals. The presence of human beta(s)-globin chains in red cells from the Hbbth-1/Hbb(th-1) + beta(s) transgenic animals was noted to have a significant effect on cellular deformability and density distribution, as well as on the degree of anemia in these animals. We conclude from these studies that red cell deformability and density distribution is a sensitive means for assessing at the cellular level the effects of globin genes genetically introduced into whole organisms. In addition, these studies suggest that small decreases in the amount of excess alpha-globin chains can significantly ameliorate the severity of anemia in the beta-thalassemic mouse.