Abstract A significant difference in the glycosphingolipid composition of JTC-12 P3 cells established from monkey kidney tissue was observed when cells cultured in a protein- and lipid-free synthetic medium containing glucose (DM-160) as a sole carbohydrate source were transferred and cultured in the same medium containing galactose and pyruvic acid (DM-170) in place of glucose. In particular, the amounts of gangliosides GM3, GM2, and GD3 in the cells cultured in DM-170 were 5.3-, 17.8-, and more than 8-fold those in the cells cultured in DM-160, respectively, indicating that anabolism of gangliosides is greatly enhanced in cells cultured in the presence of galactose and pyruvic acid, as compared with cells cultured in the presence of glucose. In fact, after cultivation of cells in the medium with N-acetyl- d-[ 14C]mannosamine for 96 h, the radioactivity incorporated into the gangliosides of the cells in DM-170 was 10-fold that of the cells in DM-160. Among the gangliosides of the cells in DM-170, highly sialylated molecules such as GD3, GD1a, GD1b, and GT1b were preferentially labeled, indicating that the sialyltransferases responsible for the synthesis of gangliosides are significantly more activated in cells cultured in DM-170 than in DM-160. These observations reveal that the glycosphingolipid composition of the plasma membrane can be modified epigenetically under well-defined conditions and provide important clues for clarifying the roles of glycosphingolipids associated with particular cell functions.