The follicle destiny towards ovulation or atresia is multi-factorial in nature and involves outcries, paracrine and endocrine factors that promote cell proliferation and survival (development) or unchain apoptosis as part of the atresia process. In several types of cells, sphingosine-1-phospate (S1P) promotes cellular proliferation and survival, whereas ceramide (CER) triggers cell death, and the S1P/CER ratio may determine the fate of the cell. The aim of present study was to quantify S1P and CER concentrations and their ratio in bovine antral follicles of 8 to 17 mm classified as healthy and atretic antral follicles. Follicles were dissected from cow ovaries collected from a local abattoir. The theca cell layer, the granulosa cells and follicular fluid were separated, and 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) concentrations were measured in the follicular fluid by radioimmunoassay. Based on the E2/P4 ratio, the follicles were classified as healthy (2.2±0.3) or atretic (0.2±0.3). In both follicular compartments (granulosa and theca cell layer), sphingolipids were extracted and S1P and CER concentrations were quantified by HPLC (XTerra RP18; 5 µm, 3.0×150 mm column). Results showed that in both follicular compartments, S1P concentrations were higher in healthy antral follicles than in atretic antral follicles (P<0.05). The concentration of CER in the granulosa cells was higher in atretic antral follicles than in healthy antral follicles, but no differences were observed in the theca cell layer. The S1P/CER ratio in both follicular compartments was also higher in healthy antral follicles. Interestingly, in these follicles, there was a 45-fold greater concentration of S1P than CER in the granulosa cells (P<0.05), whereas in the theca cell layer, S1P had only a 14-fold greater concentration than CER when compared with atretic antral follicles. These results suggest that S1P plays a role in follicle health, increasing cellular proliferation and survival. In contrast, reduction of S1P and the S1P/CER in the antral follicle could trigger cellular death and atresia.