Serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT), responsible for the initial step of sphingolipid biosynthesis, catalyzes condensation of palmitoyl coenzyme A and L-serine to produce 3-ketodihydrosphingosine (KDS). For determination of the stereochemical specificity of the amino acid substrate, a competition analysis of the production of [(3)H]KDS from L-[(3)H]serine was performed using purified SPT. D-Serine inhibited [(3)H]KDS production as effectively as non-radioactive L-serine, whereas neither D-alanine nor D-threonine showed any significant effect. Incubation of purified SPT with [palmitoyl 1-(14)C]palmitoyl coenzyme A and D-serine did not produce [(14)C]KDS, while the control incubation with L-serine did. These results suggest that D-serine competes with L-serine for the amino acid recognition site of SPT, but that D-serine is not utilized by this enzyme to produce KDS.