It has previously been shown that prolonged exercise of moderate intensity reduces the content of ceramide in each type of skeletal muscle. This was accompanied by a reduction in the activity of neutral, Mg++-dependent sphingomyelinase (the major enzyme responsible for ceramide formation from sphingomyelin) in the soleus and red gastrocnemius, but not in the white gastrocnemius (A. Dobrzyń and J. Górski, Am. J. Physiol.: Endorcinol. Metab. 282: E277 - E285, 2002). No other data on regulation of ceramide metabolism in contracting muscles are available. The aim of the present study was to examine the content of sphinganine (a key precursor of ceramide on the de novo synthesis route) and the content of sphingosine (the main product of ceramide catabolism) in different skeletal muscle types after two kinds of acute exercise. The experiments were carried out on 30 male Wistar rats, 250 - 280 g of body weight. The rats were divided equally into three groups: 1 - control, 2 - run until exhaustion (1200 m/h, +10 degree incline), 3 - a group in which the sciatic nerve was stimulated 10 min with tetanic pulses (60 pulses/min). Samples were taken of the soleus and of the red and white section of the gastrocnemius. These muscles are composed mostly of the slow-twitch oxidative, fast-twitch oxidative-glycolytic and fast-twitch glycolytic fibers, respectively. Lipids were extracted with chloroform/methanol. Sphinganine and sphingosine were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography. At rest, the content of sphinganine in the soleus was higher than in the red gastrocnemius (p < 0.05), and in the latter, it was higher than in the white gastrocnemius (p < 0.01). Prolonged exercise increased the content of sphinganine approximately 6-fold in each muscle. The resting content of sphingosine in the soleus and in the red gastrocnemius was similar--higher than in the white gastrocnemius (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01, respectively). The content of sphingosine increased over 3-fold in the soleus and nearly 2-fold in the red and white sections of the gastrocnemius. Stimulation of the sciatic nerve increased the content of both compounds approximately 2-fold in each muscle. We conclude that acute exercise increases both de novo synthesis and catabolism of ceramide in skeletal muscles. Accumulation of sphingosine in contracting muscles may contribute to the development of fatigue.