Protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) have been implicated in the development of many common human tumours including melanoma. Previously we isolated PTK gene sequences expressed in normal melanocytes. Here we examined expression of 9 of these genes in cell lines derived from defined stages of melanoma progression, by Northern blotting and in some cases immunoblotting. We also tested cells from 2 animal models of particular stages in progression, as well as uncultured biopsies of metastatic melanoma. The expression of 2 receptor kinase family members found in melanocytes, PTK7/CCK-4 and SEK/TYRO1, was decreased or lost in advanced melanomas. PTK7 mRNA was found in only 54% of melanoma cell lines and 20% of melanoma biopsies. Similarly, expression was lost in 2 advanced cell lines selected from an early melanoma line that did express PTK7 mRNA. SEK/TYRO1 expression was observed in 75% and 17% of cell lines from primary and metastastic melanomas, respectively. Conversely, mRNA for the non-receptor kinase PTK6/BRK was not detected in normal melanocytes or primary melanoma lines, but was found in 9% of metastatic melanoma cell lines.