High molecular weight (HMW, >15 kDa) but not low molecular weight (LMW, <15 kDa) polylysines (PLs) bound and induced permeability changes in rat spermatid plasma membranes, estimated by Mn2+ quenching of intracellular indo-1 fluorescence (K1/2 = 3.3 ± 0.5 μg/ml) and Co2+ quenching of intracellular calcein. The pharmacology of the Mn2+ entry pathway activated by HMW PL does not suggest that Ca2+ channels are involved in this phenomenon. Concentrations of HMW PL that induced divalent ion entry did not induce the entry of ethidium bromide, suggesting that HMW PL first bound and perturbed the plasma membrane structure inducing a non-specific increase in membrane permeability. High concentrations of HMW PL induced cell lysis (K1/2 = 23 μg/ml). The binding of HMW PL, initially homogenous on the cell surface, subsequently progressed to a segregated pattern resembling a clustering phenomenon.