Identification of antigens by monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) on sections of human melanoma by immunoperoxidase techniques was used to determine whether certain adhesion molecules and “selectin-like” molecules may be related to the metastatic potential of primary melanoma. The adhesion molecules examined were the leukocyte function antigen (LFA-1) and its ligand — intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), the receptor αVβ3 for vitronectin, its subunits αV and β3, and the CD36 receptor for thrombospondin (TSP). The criteria used to establish metastatic potential were relation of the molecules to tumor thickness and differences in expression: (i) between radial and vertical growth phases of the primary tumors and (ii) between 34 primary and 21 unrelated metastases. By these criteria ICAM-1, αVβ3 and its subunit were associated with the malignant potential of primary melanoma. These molecules were not expressed on nevi or other skin cancers with low metastatic potential such as squamous (SCC) and basal cell carcinomas (BCC). In contrast, expression of TSP and the CD36 receptor for TSP were not related to metastatic potential. CD36 was expressed widely not only on melanoma but also on BCC, SCC and nevi. Similarly, the selectin-like molecule, CD44, was widely expressed on melanoma and non-melanoma carcinomas. The lymph node homing receptor, Leu 8, and the cutaneous lymphocyte antigen (CLA) were not detected on melanoma. Leu 8 was present on normal epithelium and SCCs, and common leucocyte antigen (CLA) was detected on lymphocytes in the epithelium and near melanoma. These results support previous suggestions that expression of ICAM-1 and Vβ3 integrin or its subunit β3 on melanoma may be a useful prognostic marker in primary melanoma. They do not support a role for CD44, Leu 8, CLA and TSP or its receptor CD36 in the metastatic process in melanoma.