The peptide pVEC is a recently described cell-penetrating peptide, derived from the murine vascular endothelial-cadherin protein. In order to define which part of this 18-amino acid long peptide is important for the cellular translocation, we performed a structure-activity relationship study of pVEC. Together with the l-alanine substituted peptides, the retro-pVEC, D-pVEC and the scramble pVEC are studied for comparison. The peptide analogues are labeled with carboxyfluorescein at the N-terminus for monitoring the cellular uptake into human Bowes melanoma cells with different efficacy. We show that all the Fl-pVEC analogues internalize in live Bowes melanoma cells. l-Alanine substitution of the five respective N-terminal hydrophobic amino acids significantly decreases the translocation property, while replacing of Arg(6), Arg(8) or Ser(17) by alanine enhances the uptake. The uptake of pVEC is significantly reduced by treatment with an endocytosis inhibitor wortmannin. Treatment with heparinase III, nystatin and EIPA had no effect on the peptide uptake. The data presented here show that the N-terminal hydrophobic part of pVEC is crucial for efficient cellular translocation.