Our previous work showed that sphingosine 1-phosphate (Sph-1-P) inhibits the cell motility of mouse melanoma B16/F10, and other types of cells at 10-100 nM concentrations. In the present paper, we have identified and characterized specific cell surface binding sites for Sph-1-P in F10 cells. Sph-1-P immobilized on controlled pore glass beads inhibited the motility of F10 cells, suggesting that Sph-1-P acts on the cells from the outside. Binding assays with [3H]Sph-1-P revealed the presence of specific cell surface binding sites for Sph-1-P in F10 cells. Scatchard analysis demonstrated a single class of binding sites for Sph-1-P. The binding of [3H]Sph-1-P to F10 cells was inhibited by the addition of excess unlabeled Sph-1-P but not other natural sphingolipids. The specific binding was also sensitive to treatment with a protease. Using Sph-1-P-immobilized affinity chromatography, we, for the first time, identified 41-kDa and 79-kDa Sph-1-P binding proteins on the melanoma cell surface, although the 41-kDa protein was less specific to Sph-1-P. We demonstrated that pertussis toxin (PTX) treatment did not abolish the motility inhibition by Sph-1-P, suggesting that no PTX-sensitive G-protein is involved in the signaling. Furthermore, Sph-1-P was found to be specifically released from mouse BALB/3T3 clone A31 cells and F10 cells. Collectively, these results strongly suggest that Sph-1-P regulates melanoma cell motility through an extracellular action by specific binding to cell surface receptor protein(s), which is independent of PTX-sensitive G-protein.