Because of subtle differences between mouse and human skin, mice have traditionally not been an ideal model to study melanoma development. Understanding of the molecular mechanisms of melanoma predisposition, however, has been greatly improved by modeling various pathway defects in the mouse. This review analyzes the latest developments in mouse models of melanoma, and summarizes what these may indicate about the development of this neoplasm in humans. Mutations of genes involved in human melanoma have been recapitulated with some unexpected results, particularly with respect to the role of the two transcripts (Ink4a and Arf) encoded by the Cdkn2a locus. Both the Ink4a/pRb and Arf/p53 pathways are involved in melanoma development in mice, and possible mechanisms of cross-talk between the two pathways are discussed. We also know from mouse models that Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway activation is very important in melanoma development, either through direct activation of Ras (e.g., Hras G12V), or via activation of Ras-effector pathways by other oncogenes (e.g., Ret, Hgf/Sf). Ras can cooperate with the Arf/p53 pathway, and probably the Ink4a/Rb pathway, to induce melanoma. These three growth regulation pathways (Ink4a/pRb, Arf/p53, and Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase) seem to represent three major "axes" of melanoma development in mice. Finally, we summarize experiments using genetically modified mice that have given indications of the intensity and timing of ultraviolet radiation exposure that may be most responsible for melanoma development.