The overall shape and membrane surface of human erythrocytes (RBCs) in the presence of nifedipine (a dihydropyridinic drug used in the clinical treatment of hypertension and angina pectoris) were imaged by contact-mode atomic force microscopy. Nifedipine induces in RBCs relevant morphological changes the extent of which increases as a function of drug concentration and incubation time. The modifications have been interpreted as mainly due to insertion of nifedipine into the outer layer of the RBC membrane. The potential effect of nifedipine as a hemoglobin denaturant has been ruled out by x-ray absorption near-edge structure and optical spectroscopies. (C) 2000 American Institute of Physics. [S0003-6951(00)01024-X].