Erythrocyte fractions of varying density were isolated by discontinuous density gradient centrifugation of washed erythrocytes of five subjects (three adults and two cord bloods). Free and total carnitine concentrations were determined in each gradient fraction to compare the carnitine content of less dense with more dense erythrocytes. Erythrocyte, leukocyte, and reticulocyte counts and hemoglobin were measured on all fractions of each gradient. The density gradient studies showed that the highest proportion of reticulocytes were associated with the least dense gradient fractions of all five subjects. Linear regression analyses revealed significant positive correlations (r = 0.94 to 0.99, P < 0.02 to P < 0.001) between the number of reticulocytes per fraction and the total or free carnitine concentrations per fraction for all subjects. No correlation was found between free or total carnitine and hemoglobin, number of erythrocytes, or number of leukocytes per fraction. It appears that erythrocyte carnitine is localized in circulating reticulocytes which have mitochondria and carnitine-dependent fatty acid metabolism.