Activator proteins for sphingolipid hydrolases (saposins) are small acidic, heat-stable glycoproteins that stimulate the hydrolysis of sphingolipids by lysosomal enzymes. The molecular mass of each stimulator is about 10 kDa, but glycosylated forms of higher mass exist too. The distribution and developmental changes in two saposins and their precursor proteins were studied with the aid of monospecific antibodies against saposin-B and saposin-C. They show a wide distribution in rat organs and forms intermediate between saposin and prosaposin (the precursor protein containing four different saposin units) could be seen. The amount of saposin and the degree of processing from prosaposin are quite different in different tissues. The saposins are the dominant forms in spleen, lung, liver, and kidney, while skeletal muscle, heart, and brain contain mainly precursor forms. In human blood, leukocytes contain mainly saposin, while plasma contains mainly precursor forms and platelets show many forms. Their subcellular distribution was studied using rat liver. The saposins of approximately 20 kDa are dominant in the light mitochondrial, mitochondrial, and microsomal fractions, following the distribution of the activity of a lysosomal marker enzyme. The nuclear fraction exhibits bands corresponding to non-glycosylated saposin. The soluble fraction contained much precursor forms. A developmental study of rat brain showed that the concentration of saposin precursors increased with age.