Both the plasma determinations of erythropoietin (EPO) and transferrin receptor (TfR) would provide a good characterization of anemia especially when mixed erythron disorders underlie, such as in renal failure. Immunologic assays of EPO and TfR, as well as standard hematologic determinations (hematocrit, reticulocyte count, serum iron, transferrin, ferritin) were performed in patients with chronic renal failure (CRF), in regular dialysis treatment (RDT) and in transplanted (TX) patients. In nonanemic TX patients both EPO and TfR ranged normally, whereas in anemic TX ones (Hct < 40%) both values were increased suggesting the physiologic response both of the kidney and of the erythron to decreased red cell mass. In transitory posttransplant erythrocytosis the increased values of TfR, with normal EPO values, would hypothesize a defective feedback to EPO release. Both EPO and TfR values were found increased in TX patients with adult polycystic kidney disease with persistent erythrocytosis (Hct > 50%), thus confirming previous observations. In CRF and RDT patients, all anemic, both EPO and TfR were normal, even though significantly low with respect to the degree of anemia. In RDT seriously anemic patients, the administration of recombinant human EPO induced different patterns of bone marrow response. We conclude that the determination of TfR would provide further information on renal anemia since the receptor increase mostly preceded the rise of Hct, evidencing those patients who will not have an effective bone marrow response to the therapy.