Melanocytes and melanoma cells are known to possess receptors for melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH). A cDNA clone, designated 11D, has been isolated from human melanoma cells and encodes a MSH receptor. The cloned cDNA encodes a 317 amino acid protein with transmembrane topography characteristics of a G-protein-coupled receptor, but it does not show striking similarity to already published sequences of other G-protein-coupled receptors. When 11D cDNA is expressed in COS-7 cells, it binds an 125I-labelled MSH analogue (NDP-MSH) in a specific manner. The bound ligand could be displaced by melanotropic peptides, alpha-MSH, beta-MSH, gamma-MSH and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), but not by the non-melanotropic peptide, beta-endorphin. This is the first report of the cloning of the receptor gene of the melanotropin receptor family.