The Melan-A (MART1) gene encodes an antigen recognized by cytotoxic T cells. Although its expression in metastatic melanoma has been documented in the literature by several investigators, little is known about its distribution in primary melanomas and benign melanocytic nevi. In this study, we evaluated Melan-A expression immunohistochemically on sections from paraffin-embedded material of 50 benign nevi and 40 primary cutaneous melanomas using the monoclonal antibody A103. To evaluate a potential role of A103 in the differential diagnosis of melanocytic from nonmelanocytic tumors, we also analyzed a number of benign and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, fibrohistiocytic tumors, and leiomyosarcomas. Immunoreactivity with A103 was present in all "nonneurotized" nevi and in all nondesmoplastic primary melanomas, both in the intraepidermal and the dermal component. Only two nevi that underwent prominent neurotization showed no staining with A103. Although all melanomas with epithelioid cells tended to be strongly positive with A103, only 4 of 13 spindle cell and desmoplastic melanomas (all positive with anti-S-100 and negative with HMB-45) were immunoreactive with A103 (two focally, two diffusely). None of the nonmelanocytic lesions expressed Melan-A. Our results confirm that Melan-A protein is broadly expressed in the majority of benign and malignant melanocytic lesions and suggest that A103 can be helpful diagnostically, not only for metastatic tumors, but also for primary skin lesions. Its use in distinguishing between melanocytic and peripheral nerve sheath tumors, however, is limited because of the low or absent expression of Melan-A in nevi that underwent neurotization and spindle cell and desmoplastic melanomas.