Recent data indicate that the estrogen receptor (ER) blocker tamoxifen (TAM) can induce cell death in malignant melanoma cells. However, as shown in the present study and several other studies melanoma cells usually do not express classical ERs. In the present study we investigated whether the cytotoxic effect of TAM on melanoma cells could depend on interference with the expression or function of the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R), a plasma membrane receptor important for cell survival in this tumor cell type. Several melanoma cell lines were included in the analysis. Administration of TAM at a concentration of 15 microm or more resulted in cell death of the melanoma cells within 48 h. TAM treatment was correlated to a slight to moderate inhibition of IGF-1 binding to IGF-1R. Since it has been reported that TAM can increase the release of IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs) we then investigated whether this mechanism could underly the decreased IGF-1 binding. However, we could demonstrate that the amount of released IGFBPs were unchanged or decreased in TAM-treated cells. Whereas TAM did not have any strong effect on IGF-1 binding and the expression of IGF-1R at the cell surface, it was was found to efficently block tyrosine phosphorylation of IGF-1R beta-subunit. Taken together, our data suggest that TAM-induced cytotoxicity of malignant melanoma cells can be due to inactivation of IGF-1R.