Focal contacts are transmembrane links between the extracellular matrix and the actin cytoskeleton that play a critical role in directed cell migration, adhesion, and normal growth. Several different component proteins of the focal contact show developmentally dependent changes in expression, suggesting that this is an important mechanism by which focal contact formation is controlled during embryogenesis. In this report we examine the expression of focal contact-associated proteins in human fetal and neonatal melanocytes using Western blotting. We show that expression of paxillin, a 69-kDa vinculin binding protein, is fourfold higher in neonatal melanocytes than in fetal melanocytes. Further, we show that talin, a high molecular weight structural protein that links integrins to the actin cytoskeleton, is proteolytically cleaved in fetal, but not in neonatal melanocytes. Immunofluorescence microscopy of cells grown on fibronectin confirmed the presence of paxillin, talin, and vinculin at the ends of actin stress fibers at presumptive focal contacts in melanocytes. Adhesion experiments to extracellular matrix ligands revealed significant differences in adhesion of fetal and neonatal melanocytes to fibronectin. The developmentally specific changes in focal contact protein expression observed suggest that this may be an important mechanism by which focal contact assembly is controlled in human melanocytes during development.