When applied in liquid paraffin to the upper surface of expanding spinach leaves, [1-14C]palmitic acid was efficiently and exclusively incorporated into the sn-1 position of cellular glycerolipids, principally phosphatidylcholine and triacylglycerol. A slow transfer of fatty acids from phosphatidylcholine to chloroplast glycolipids subsequently occurred with the positional specificity of the label remaining intact. Labeled palmitate at the sn-1 position of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol was desaturated to hexadecatrienoate so that 1-[14C]hexadecatrienoyl-2-linolenoyl-3-galactosoylglycerol became the major labeled species of the lipid between 8 and 24 h. There was no evidence of deacylation/reacylation reactions modifying the acyl compositions of spinach leaf glycerolipids for at least 48 h after labeling with [1-14C]palmitic acid; even the partially prokaryotic glycerolipids remained firmly labeled at the sn-1 position. Exogenous [1-14C]stearic acid was also incorporated into the sn-1 position of MGD, presumably by the same mechanism, and was there desaturated to [14C]linolenate. Exogenous [1-14C]oleic acid was initially incorporated equally into both sn-1 and sn-2 positions of phosphatidylcholine, and was desaturated to linoleate at both positions before the label was rapidly transferred to monogalactosyldiacylglycerol. There, desaturation of linoleate to linolenate took place. Galactolipids remained equally labeled at both positions throughout the 6 days of the experiment, but label was concentrated in the 1-saturated-2-[14C]linolenoyl molecular species of phosphatidylcholine as those species with two [14C]linoleoyl residues were drawn off for monogalactolipid synthesis. Glycerolipids synthesised from exogenous [1-14C]acetate by spinach leaves were labeled equally at both the sn-1 and the sn-2 positions. These results are interpreted as providing strong support for the two-pathway scheme of glycerolipid synthesis in plants.