Sphingomyelin pathway has been linked with insulin signaling through insulin-dependent GLUT-4 glucose transporter, but a relationship between sphingomyelin and the GLUT-1 transporter responsible for the basal (insulin-independent) glucose transport has not been clearly established. As GLUT-1 is mainly distributed to the cell surface, we explored the effects of changes in membrane sphingomyelin content on glucose transport through GLUT-1. The addition of exogenous sphingomyelin or glutathione (an inhibitor of endogenous sphingomyelinase) to the culture medium increased membrane sphingomyelin and cholesterol contents. Basal glucose uptake was enhanced and positively correlated to sphingomyelin (SM), cholesterol (CL) and SM/CL ratio. The exposure of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes to sphingomyelinase (SMase) significantly increased basal glucose uptake, membrane fluidity and decreased membrane sphingomyelin and cholesterol contents 60 min after SMase addition. There was no significant change in the abundance of GLUT-1 at the cell surface. The membrane sphingomyelin and cholesterol contents, fluidity and basal glucose transport returned to baseline levels within 2 h. The basal glucose uptake was negatively correlated with cholesterol contents and positively with SM/CL ratio. The SM/CL ratio might represent an important parameter controlling basal glucose uptake and a mechanism by which insulin resistance might be induced.