Endothelins (ETs) exert several functions in human melanocytes, including proliferation, dendrite formation, and melanin synthesis. Among the ET receptors, the non-selective endothelin-B (ETB) receptor is the major receptor in melanocytes and malignant melanoma (MM) cells. In spite of the important role of ETs and their receptors in the growth and differentiation of melanocytes, the distribution and expression levels of ETB receptors in tissue sections of benign and malignant pigment cell lesions is still unknown. We combined immunohistochemistry and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to study ETB receptor expression in benign and malignant pigment cell lesions and in normal skin. Immunohistochemistry on paraffin-embedded tissue sections of 159 cases revealed a significant increase in intensity of ETB receptor expression from common nevi over dysplastic nevi and primary MM to metastatic MM. Quantitative PCR using realtime detection on 75 samples confirmed the immunohistochemical results. These data add the ETB receptor to the growing list of tumor progression markers in MM and suggest that ETs play a role in the progression of MM in the skin.