Erythropoietin is well known for its role in the control of erythropoiesis, where it acts by binding to its cognate receptor (EpoR) on the surface of erythroid progenitor cells. Here we present the novel finding that the EpoR is also expressed in cells of the melanocytic lineage. It is expressed in transformed cell lines established from normal melanocytes and also in established human melanoma cell lines derived from melanoma metastases, but not in normal primary human melanocytes. The analysis of individual subclones isolated from spontaneously transformed melanocytes revealed that approximately 50% of all the clones examined expressed the EpoR. Further analysis of the individual growth characteristics of EpoR-positive and EpoR-negative clones indicated that, under standard cell culture conditions, expression of the receptor did not affect cell growth. Expression of this receptor is consequently most likely driven by an event that is associated with, but not absolutely required for, the transformed phenotype. While the definite function of this receptor in melanoma cells is still unknown and additional studies are required, our findings support the hypothesis that the EpoR may serve as a progression marker for human melanoma. This observation might be useful in the early diagnosis of melanoma.