Incubation of rat soleus muscles with 50 microM sphingosine or 50 microM sphinganine augmented basal 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2DG) transport 32%, but reduced the response to 0.1 and 1.0 mU insulin/ml by 17 and 27%, respectively. When the muscles were incubated with 50 microM phytosphingosine, a 63-93% increase in basal 2DG transport was observed. However, this treatment had no effect on insulin-stimulated 2DG transport. The phytosphingosine-induced increase in basal 2-DG transport was inhibited 93 and 98% with 35 and 70 microM cytochalasin B, respectively, suggesting that it is mediated by glucose transporters. Cellular accumulation of L-glucose, which is not mediated by glucose transporters, was not affected by phytosphingosine. It is concluded that (a) both sphingosine and sphinganine increase basal 2DG transport in muscle but diminish insulin-stimulated transport, and (b) phytosphingosine stimulates basal 2DG transport in muscle by a mechanism involving glucose transporters.