Background:CRIPTO-1 (CR-1) is involved in the pathogenesis and progression of human carcinoma of different histological origin. In this study we addressed the expression and the functional role of CR-1 in cutaneous melanoma.Methods:Expression of CR-1 protein in melanomas and melanoma cell lines was assessed by immunohistochemistry, western blotting and/or flow cytometry. Levels of mRNA were evaluated by real-time PCR. Invasion assays were performed in Matrigel-coated modified Boyden chambers.Results:Expression of CR-1 protein and/or mRNA was found in 16 out of 37 primary human cutaneous melanomas and in 12 out of 21 melanoma cell lines. Recombinant CR-1 protein activated in melanoma cells c-Src and, at lesser extent, Smad signalling. In addition, CR-1 significantly increased the invasive ability of melanoma cells that was prevented by treatment with either the ALK4 inhibitor SB-431542 or the c-Src inhibitor saracatinib (AZD0530). Anti-CR-1 siRNAs produced a significant inhibition of the growth and the invasive ability of melanoma cells. Finally, a close correlation was found in melanoma cells between the levels of expression of CR-1 and the effects of saracatinib on cell growth.Conclusion:These data indicate that a significant fraction of cutaneous melanoma expresses CR-1 and that this growth factor is involved in the invasion and proliferation of melanoma cells.