1. Studies of erythrocyte cation transport mechanisms in vitro were performed on eight normotensive, premenopausal female subjects at the mid-points of the follicular and luteal phases of their menstrual cycles. Concurrent plasma concentrations of 17β-oestradiol, progesterone, aldosterone and renin activity were measured.
2. Ouabain-resistant, frusemide-resistant rubidium influx (an index of passive potassium diffusion) was significantly lower in the luteal than the follicular phase.
3. In further studies in four of the eight subjects, the mean rate constant of the rubidium influx measurement was also lower in the luteal than in the follicular phase.
4. There were no changes in Na+-K+ co-transport, sodium pump activity or intracellular cation concentrations throughout the cycle.
5. There was a tenfold fall in the mean plasma 17β-oestradiol/progesterone ratio, as well as increases in plasma aldosterone concentration and renin activity between the mid-follicular and mid-luteal phases.
6. We conclude that changes in plasma oestrogen/progesterone ratio during the menstrual cycle may be associated with alterations in passive potassium diffusion.