A low-salt extract prepared from human erythrocyte membranes forms a solid gel when purified rabbit muscle G- or F-actin is added to it to give a concentration of approximately 1 mg/ml. This extract contains spectrin, actin, band 4.1, band 4.9, hemoglobin, and several minor components. Pellets obtained by centrifugation of the gelled material at 43,000 g for 10 min contain spectrin, actin, band 4.1, and band 4.9. Although extracts that are diluted severalfold do not gel when actin is added to them, the viscosity of the mixtures increases dramatically over that of G-actin alone, extract alone, or F-actin alone at equivalent concentrations. Heat-denatured extract is completely inactive. Under conditions of physiological ionic strength and pH, information of this supramolecular structure is inhibited by raising the free calcium ion concentration to micromolar levels. Low-salt extracts prepared by initial extraction at 37 degrees C (and stored at 0 degree C) gel after actin is added to them only when warmed, whereas extracts prepared by extraction at 0 degree C are active on ice as well as after warming. Preincubation of the 37 degrees C low-salt extract under conditions that favor conversion of spectrin dimer to tetramer greatly enhances gelation activity at 0 degree C. Conversely, preincubation of the 0 degree C low-salt extract under conditions that favor conversion of spectrin tetramer to dimer greatly diminishes gelation activity at 0 degree C. Spectrin dimers or tetramers are purified from the 37 dgrees or 0 degree C low-salt extract by gel filtration at 4 degrees C over Sepharose 4B. The addition of actin to either purified spectrin dimer (at 32 degrees C) or tetramer (at 0 degree C or 32 degrees C) results in relatively small increases in viscosity, whereas the addition of actin to a high-molecular-weight complex (HMW complex) containing spectrin, actin, band 4.1, and band 4.9 results in dramatic, calcium-sensitive increases in viscosity. These viscosities are comparable to those obtained with the 37 degrees or 0 degree C low-salt extracts. The addition of purified band 4.1 to either purified spectrin dimer (at 32 degrees C) or purified spectrin tetramer (at 0 degree C) plus actin results in large increases in viscosity similar to those observed for the HMW complex and the crude extract, which is in agreement with a recent report by E. Ungewickell, P. M. Bennett, R. Calvert, V. Ohanian, and W. B. Gratzer. 1979 Nature (Lond.) 280:811-814. We suggest that this spectrin-actin-band 4.1 gel represents a major structural component of the erythrocyte cytoskeleton.