Microsomes isolated from liver and brain tissue were assayed to examine transitions in metabolic capability to synthesize tetraenes and pentaenes by chain elongation-desaturation of C20:3(8,11,14) during the perinatal development of the pig. Rates of synthesis of tetraenes and pentaenes by chain elongation-desaturation of C20:3(8,11,14) were greatest in liver. During the latter half of gestation, the capability to synthesize tetraenes increased 7- or 23-fold on a per mg of microsomal protein basis for brain and liver respectively. Increase in the capacity to synthesize tetraenes from C20:3(8,11,14) suggests a significant transition in the activity of the delta 5-desaturase during the last half of gestation. These observations indicate that in liver and brain the capability to chain elongate-desaturate C18:2(9,12) to longer chain homologues increases significantly during early development as a function of transitions in the activity of the delta 5-desaturase.