zeta-Globin chain expression in carriers of a number of deletional alpha-thalassemias is investigated by radioimmunoassay. In a few cases, zeta-globin mRNAs are also studied. zeta-Globin chains are detected in (--SEA/), (--MED/), and (--SPAN/) deletions, but not in six other deletional mutations. These results suggest that the DNA element capable of suppressing zeta-globin expression in adult erythroid cells is present within the (--SPAN/) deletion, while the DNA fragment between the 5′ breakpoints of the (--SA/) and the (--SEA/) deletions may contain sequences necessary for augmenting zeta-globin expression in adult erythroid cells. Furthermore, zeta-globin chains are shown by an immunocytologic technique to be present in all circulating erythrocytes in carriers of the (--SEA/) and (--MED/) deletions. This simple immunocytologic test is highly sensitive and specific to detect adult carriers of either the (--SEA/) or (--MED/) deletions, and can be used for the detection of couples at risk of pregnancies involving fetuses with homozygous alpha-thalassemia.