Incubating B16 melanoma cells with an inhibitor of glucosylceramide (GlcCer) synthetase, D-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (D-threo-PDMP), led to a considerable decrease in the levels of GlcCer and lactosylceramide (LacCer). The content of ganglioside GM3 was little affected, but the ability to bind a monoclonal antibody against the ganglioside (M2590) was greatly reduced, suggesting that the reduction in the simple glycolipids led to encryption of the membrane antigen. This interpretation is supported by the observation that permeabilization of the treated cells with Triton X-100 restored immunological reactivity. Specificity of the PDMP effect was shown by its lack of effect on the reactivity of two other surface antigens to anti-melanoma monoclonal antibodies M562 and M622, and of the major histocompatibility antigens to anti-H-2KbDb monoclonal antibody. The ability of the treated cells to attach to laminin or type IV collagen was lost but that to fibronectin was not. The effects of the enzyme inhibitor were counteracted by including GlcCer in the culture medium. This indicates that the lipid was absorbed by the cells and utilized like endogenously-formed GlcCer. Cells preattached to laminin or collagen could be induced to round up by addition of inhibitor. In contrast, L-threo-PDMP (which does not block the synthesis of GlcCer) had no effect on the immunologic reactivity of GM3 or the adhesion properties of the cells. However, it did produce considerable accumulation of LacCer. These data suggest that the simple glycolipid, GlcCer, is an essential factor for antigenic expression of the more complex glycolipids on cell surfaces and that there is a close association and interaction between glycolipids and adhesive receptors on the cell surface.