Glycosphingolipids (GSLs), composed of a hydrophilic carbohydrate chain and a lipophilic ceramide anchor, play pivotal roles in countless biological processes, including infectious diseases and the development of cancer. Knowledge of the number and sequence of monosaccharides and their anomeric configuration and linkage type, which make up the principal items of the glyco code of biologically active carbohydrate chains, is essential for exploring the function of GSLs. As part of the investigation of the vertebrate glycome, GSL analysis is undergoing rapid expansion owing to the application of novel biochemical and biophysical technologies. Mass spectrometry (MS) takes part in the network of collaborations to further unravel structural and functional aspects within the fascinating world of GSLs with the ultimate aim to better define their role in human health and disease. However, a single-method analytical MS technique without supporting tools is limited yielding only partial structural information. Because of its superior resolving power, robustness, and easy handling, high-performance thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is widely used as an invaluable tool in GSL analysis. The intention of this review is to give an insight into current advances obtained by coupling supplementary techniques such as TLC and mass spectrometry. A retrospective view of the development of this concept and the recent improvements by merging (1) TLC separation of GSLs, (2) their detection with oligosaccharide-specific proteins, and (3) in situ MS analysis of protein-detected GSLs directly on the TLC plate, are provided. The procedure works on a nanogram scale and was successfully applied to the identification of cancer-associated GSLs in several types of human tumors. The combination of these two supplementary techniques opens new doors by delivering specific structural information of trace quantities of GSLs with only limited investment in sample preparation. Copyright 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.