Cell membrane localization of the 72 kDa heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) has been found on different tumour cell lines, on biopsy material from solid tumours and metastases and on leukaemic blasts from acute myelogenous leukaemia patients, but not on the corresponding normal tissues, as determined by flow cytometry using the Hsp70-specific monoclonal antibody C92F3B1. In the present study Hsp70 membrane expression was studied on primary malignant melanomas, melanoma metastases, melanocytes, human skin fibroblasts and peripheral blood lymphocytes, together with expression of the melanoma-associated markers Mel-1, Mel-2 and Mel-5, major histocompatibility complex class I and the fibroblast-specific marker ASO2. As previously shown, fibroblasts and peripheral blood lymphocytes from healthy human volunteers were found to be negative for Hsp70 and for the melanoma-associated markers Mel-1, Mel-2 and Mel-5. Human melanocytes from healthy human donors were also negative for Hsp70, but were positive for Mel-1 and Mel-5. Independent of the Clark's level, all the malignant melanomas (n = 9) and metastases (n = 11) exhibited were positive for both Mel-1 and Mel-2. The primary melanomas could be divided into two groups according to their Hsp70 and Mel-5 expression pattern: those with an Hsp70-negative and a Mel-5-positive phenotype (-/+) (five out of nine), and those with an Hsp70-positive and a Mel-5-negative phenotype (+/-) (four out of nine). All the melanoma metastases (n = 11) had an Hsp70-positive, Mel-5-negative phenotype (+/-). These data provide the first hint that the marker combination Hsp70 positive/Mel-5 negative might be useful in estimating the metastatic potential of a melanoma. Investigations on changes in the marker combination Hsp70/Mel-5 during onset of melanoma disease and progression will clarify its potential as a prognostic risk factor.