Although the molecular and cellular basis of particular events that lead to the biogenesis of membranes in eukaryotic cells has been described in detail, understanding of the intrinsic complexity of the pleiotropic response by which a cell adjusts the overall activity of its endomembrane system to accomplish these requirements is limited. Here we carried out an immunocytochemical and biochemical examination of the content and quality of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi apparatus membranes in two in vivo situations characterized by a phase of active cell proliferation followed by a phase of declination in proliferation (rat brain tissue at early and late developmental stages) or by permanent active proliferation (gliomas and their most malignant manifestation, glioblastomas multiforme). It was found that, in highly proliferative phases of brain development (early embryo brain cells), the content of ER and Golgi apparatus membranes, measured as total lipid phosphorous content, is higher than in adult brain cells. In addition, the concentration of protein markers of ER and Golgi is also higher in early embryo brain cells and in human glioblastoma multiforme cells than in adult rat brain or in nonpathological human brain cells. Results suggest that the amount of endomembranes and the concentration of constituent functional proteins diminish as cells decline in their proliferative activity. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.