Ursolic acid (UA) has antiinflammatory and anticancer effects on mammalian cells. Increase in acid sphingomyelinase (SMase) is associated with several inflammatory diseases including inflammatory bowel diseases. The enzyme has become a target for drug discovery. The present study examined the roles of UA on acid SMase in intestinal cells. We found that UA specifically inhibited acid SMase activity in both human colon cancer Caco-2 cells and rat nontransformed IEC-6 intestinal cells in a dose-dependent manner, with 50% inhibition occurred at 30 μM for Caco-2 cells and less than 20 μM for IEC-6 cells. In comparison with some chemicals known to inhibit acid SMase, UA appeared most effective. The decreased acid SMase activity was not associated with significant accumulation of cellular sphingomyelin but significant increase in phosphatidylcholine, the donor of choline for sphingomyelin synthesis. Western blot analysis showed a decreased enzyme levels in the cells after UA stimulation, but real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) failed to show a parallel reduction of acid SMase mRNA after UA stimulation. Finally, UA had no direct effect on acid SMase activity in cell-free extracts. In conclusion, UA has inhibitory effects on acid SMase synthesis and the effect occurs presumably at posttranslational levels. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.