In human epidermis, functional symbiosis requires homeostatic balance between keratinocytes and melanocytes. Compelling evidence from co-culture studies demonstrated a sophisticated, multileveled regulation of normal melanocytic phenotype orchestrated by undifferentiated, basal-type keratinocytes. Keratinocytes control cell growth and dendricity, as well as expression of melanoma-associated cell surface molecules of normal melanocytes. In contrast, melanoma cells are refractory to the keratinocyte-mediated regulation. The loss of regulatory dominance by keratinocytes occurs in concert with down-regulation of E-cadherin expression in melanoma cells. To investigate the potential role of E-cadherin in melanoma-keratinocyte interaction, we transduced E-cadherin-negative melanoma cells with full-length E-cadherin cDNA using an adenoviral vector. Our results show that functional E-cadherin expression in melanoma cells leads to cell adhesion to keratinocytes rendering them susceptible for keratinocyte-mediated control. In a skin reconstruction model, ectopic E-cadherin expression inhibits invasion of melanoma cells into dermis by down-regulating invasion-related adhesion receptors, MelCAM/MUC18 and beta3 integrin subunit, and by induction of apoptosis. Thus, disruption of the E-cadherin-mediated, normal regulatory control from keratinocytes may represent one of the mechanisms accounting for melanocyte transformation.