Hereditary spherocytosis (HS) is an inherited disorder of erythrocyte shape associated with spectrin deficiency and hemolytic anemia. In a subset of patients with the autosomal dominant form of HS, spectrin displays a reduced capacity to bind protein 4.1 and, therefore, actin; both functions that are critical to the membrane skeleton. A specific structural defect has not been identified in the spectrin from these patients. Chymotryptic digestion of the isolated spectrin chains shows impaired cleavage of the distal peptide of the beta subunit, the beta IV domain. In previous work, we have shown that mild oxidation markedly diminishes the binding capacity of normal spectrin for protein 4.1. Here we observe that chemical reduction of freshly isolated, untreated HS spectrin dramatically improves its function. Thus, a primary structural defect in the beta subunit of spectrin in this subtype of HS may lead to oxidant sensitivity, and secondarily, to a functional defect in the binding of spectrin to protein 4.1 and actin.