In the present study the role of glycosphingolipids (GSL) in amphibian development was investigated. We analysed the de novo synthesis of neutral GSL and gangliosides through the initial stages of Bufo arenarum embryo development and their participation during gastrulation using 1-phenyl-2-palmitoyl-3-morpholino-1-propanol (PPMP), a potent inhibitor of glucosylceramide synthase. Ganglioside synthesis began at the blastula stage and reached a maximum during gastrulation (stages 10-12) while neutral GSL synthesis showed a slight gradual increase, the former being quantitatively more significant than the latter. Ganglioside synthesis was reduced by 90% while neutral GSL synthesis was inhibited by 65% when embryos at blastula stage were cultured for 24 h in 20 μM PPMP. The depletion of GSL from amphibian embryos induced an abnormal gastrulation in a dose-dependent manner. We found that PPMP had a pronounced effect on development since no embryos exhibited normal gastrulation; their developmental rate either slowed down or, more often, became totally arrested. Morphological analysis of arrested embryos revealed inhibition of the gastrulation morphogenetic movements. Analysis of mesodermal cell morphology in those embryos showed a severe decrease in the number and complexity of cellular extensions such as filopodia and lamellipodia. Mesodermal cells isolated from PPMP-treated embryos had very low adhesion percentages. Our results suggest that glycosphingolipids participate in Bufo arenarum gastrulation, probably through their involvement in cell adhesion events.