From a differential mRNA display comparing a non- and a highly metastasizing human melanoma cell line, we isolated and characterized memD. memD is preferentially expressed in the highly metastasizing melanoma cell lines of a larger panel. The encoded protein, MEMD, is identical to activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM), a recently identified ligand of CD6. ALCAM is involved in homophylic (ALCAM-ALCAM) and heterophylic (ALCAM-CD6) cell adhesion interactions. We have studied MEMD/ALCAM cell-cell interactions between human melanoma cells. The expression of this cell adhesion molecule not only correlates with enhanced metastatic properties and with aggregational behavior of human melanoma cells as tested by FACS analysis, but transfection experiments also make clear that MEMD/ALCAM expression is essential for cell-cell interaction of the investigated human melanoma cells. As the melanoma cell lines analyzed are all CD6 negative, these results strongly suggest that MEMD/ALCAM is an adhesion molecule mediating homophylic clustering of melanoma cells. MEMD/ALCAM expression is not restricted to subsets of leukocytes and melanoma cells, it can also be found in healthy organs and in several other malignant tumor cell lines. Besides, MEMD/ALCAM is also expressed in cultured endothelial cells, pericytes and melanocytes, in xenografts derived from the radial and vertical growth phase and in 4 of 13 melanoma metastasis lesions. The potential role is discussed of MEMD/ALCAM mediated cell-cell interactions in migration of mobile cells (ie, activated leukocytes, metastasizing tumor cells) through tissues.