Using differential scanning calorimetry and lifetime analysis of trans-parinaric acid fluorescence, we have examined how cholesterol and cholesteryl phosphocholine (CholPC) affect gel-phase properties of palmitoyl ceramide (PCer) in 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and 1,2-dioleyol-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) bilayers. By (2)H NMR, we also measured fluid-phase interactions among these lipids using deuterated analogs of POPC, PCer, and cholesterol. The PCer-rich gel phase in POPC bilayers (9:1 molar ratio of POPC to PCer) was partially and similarly dissolved (and thermostability decreased) by both cholesterol and CholPC (sterol was present equimolar to PCer, or in fourfold excess). In DOPC bilayers (4:1 DOPC/PCer molar ratio), CholPC was much more efficient in dissolving the PCer-rich gel phase when compared to cholesterol. This can be interpreted as indicating that PCer interaction with POPC was stronger than PCer interaction with DOPC. PCer-CholPC interactions were also more favored in DOPC bilayers compared to POPC bilayers. In the fluid POPC-rich phase, cholesterol increased the order of the acyl chain of d2-PCer much more than did CholPC. In DOPC-rich fluid bilayers, both cholesterol and CholPC increased d2-PCer acyl chain order, and the ordering induced by CholPC was more efficient in DOPC than in POPC bilayers. In fluid POPC bilayers, the ordering of 3-d1-cholesterol by PCer was weak. In summary, we found that in the gel phase, sterol effects on the PCer-rich gel phase were markedly influenced by the acyl chain composition of the fluid PC. The same was true for fluid-phase interactions involving the sterols. Our results further suggest that PCer did not display high affinity toward either of the sterols used. We conclude that the nature of unsaturated phospholipids (POPC versus DOPC) in bilayers has major effects on the properties of ceramide gel phases and on sterol-ceramide-phospholipid interactions in such complex bilayers.