Xenopus embryos of different developmental stages were exposed to 0.1 μM [1-3H]sphingosine. Labeled sphingosine was quickly absorbed by Xenopus embryos. The amount of radioactivity absorbed increased with embryo age and appeared to be linearly correlated (R=0.97) to the embryo surface area. About 45% of the total radioactivity associated to the embryos was found in the skin, 22% in the intestine, 15% in the heart, 12% in the liver and 6% in the brain.
A portion of [1-3H]sphingosine entered very rapidly the biosynthetic pathway of sphingolipids; after 30 min of incubation, in fact, only a small amount of free radioactive sphingosine could be detected. Sphingomyelin was the main radioactive sphingolipid synthesized; radioactive ceramide, galactosylceramide and lactosylceramide could also be recognized and quantified. On the contrary, the amount of radioactive gangliosides was hardly detectable.
A portion of [1-3H]sphinogosine absorbed by Xenopus embryos (30 to 60% depending on the developmental stage) entered the catabolic pathway producing radioactive phosphoethanolamine that was recycled for the biosynthesis of radioactive phosphatidylethanolamine. This phospholipid was produced mainly in the intestine and in the skin, while sphingomyelin was the main radioactive lipid in the heart, liver and brain.