Using the murine monoclonal antibody (MoAb) B1.1 we have analyzed the immunochemical profile and the tissue distribution of a human melanoma associated antigen (MAA) carrying an epitope shared by the 180 kd CEA. Results of this study have demonstrated that the epitope expressed by the MAA is carried by a distinct set of molecules of 110-140 kd. Similarly to the 180 kd CEA molecules synthesized by carcinomas, the expression of the melanoma associated CEA like components (MA-CEA) is upregulated by IFN-alpha. The tissue distribution of MA-CEA is not restricted to malignant primary and metastatic melanocytic lesions but is found also at low levels in 64% of benign nevi. No circulating CEA was found in patients bearing widespread metastatic disease of MA-CEA positive lesions. Preliminary clinical evaluation of stage I melanoma patients bearing MoAb B1.1 positive lesions has not shown a significative prognostic association of this phenotypic marker with clinical course of the disease.