We have determined the expression profiles of cdh7, and the related cdh20 during development. Both transcripts are found in the adult brain, but only cadherin-20 mRNA was detected during embryogenesis. In mouse embryos, cadherin-20 is synthesized by the forebrain, anterior neural ridge, developing visual system, primitive external granular layer of the cerebellum and a subset of neural crest cells likely to develop into melanoblasts. We found that the other embryonic tissues in which cadherin-20 was synthesized depended on genetic background. Melanoma cell lines contained transcripts for cadherin-7 but not for cadherin-20. The majority of the malignant melanoma cell lines produced N-cadherin (N-Cad) and/or cadherin-7 whereas melanocyte cell lines did not. The converse was observed for E-cadherin (E-Cad). Our data suggest that during development cadherin-20 is a key player in compartmentalization of the neural tube and establishment of neural circuitry. Finally, during oncogenesis, cadherin-7, N-cad and E-cad could be used as an efficient marker set for melanoma.