The ganglioside GM4 is a sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipid mainly expressed in mammalian brain and erythrocytes. GM4 is synthesized by the sialylation of galactosylceramide (GalCer), while the ganglioside GM3 is synthesized by the sialylation of lactosylceramide (LacCer). Recently, the enzyme GM3 synthase was found to be responsible for the synthesis of GM4 in vitro and in vivo, yet the mechanism behind GM4 expression in cells remains unclear. In this study, we attempted to establish GM4-reconstituted cells to reveal the regulation of GM4 synthesis. Interestingly, GM4 was not detected in RPMI 1846 cells expressing LacCer, GalCer, and GM3. Similarly, GM4 was not detected in CHO-K1 cells, even when such cells expressing LacCer and GM3 were stably transfected with the GalCer synthase (GalCerS) gene. GM4 became detectable only when the GM3/GM4 synthase (GM3/GM4S, ST3GAL5) gene was overexpressed in either RPMI 1846 or CHO-K1/GalCerS cells. A mutant of the B16 melanoma cell line, GM-95, lacks GlcCer and LacCer, due to an absence of GlcCer synthase, but carries endogenous LacCer synthase and GM3/GM4S. GalCer became detectable after transfection of GalCerS into GM95 cells, but the GM95/GalCerS reconstituted cells did not express GM4, indicating that competition between the substrates LacCer and GalCer for GM3/GM4S does not cause the failure of GM4 synthesis. These results suggest that the expression machinery of GM4 under physiological conditions is independent from that of GM3.