We studied the effects of autologous erythrocyte infusion on blood volume and thermoregulation during exercise in the heat. By use of a double-blind design, nine unacclimated male subjects were infused with either 600 ml of a NaCl-glucose-phosphate solution containing a approximately 50% hematocrit (n = 6, reinfusion) or 600 ml of this solution only (n = 3, saline). A heat stress test (HST) was attempted approximately 2-wk pre- and 48-h postinfusion during the late spring months. After 30 min of rest in a 20 degrees C antechamber, the HST consisted of a 120-min exposure (2 repeats of 15 min rest and 45 min treadmill walking) in a hot (35 degrees C, 45% rh) environment while euhydrated. Erythrocyte volume (RCV, 51Cr) and plasma volume (PV, 125I) were measured 24 h before each HST, and maximal O2 uptake (VO2max) was measured 24 h after each HST. Generally, no significant effects were found for the saline group. For the reinfusion group, RCV (11%, P less than 0.01) and VO2max (11%, P less than 0.05) increased after infusion, and the following observations were made: 1) the increased RCV was associated with a reduction in PV to maintain the same blood volume as during the preinfusion measurements; 2) polycythemia reduced total circulating protein but did not alter F-cell ratio, plasma osmolality, plasma protein content, or plasma lactate at rest or during exercise-heat stress; 3) polycythemia did not change the volume of fluid entering the intravascular space from rest to exercise-heat stress; and 4) polycythemia tended to reduce the rate of heat storage during exercise-heat stress.