The effects of melatonin on proliferation and on the induction of melanogenesis in rodent melanoma cells were investigated. It was found that melatonin at low concentrations (0.1-10 nM) inhibited cell growth but had no effect on melanogenesis, while at high concentrations (≥0.1 μM) it inhibited the induction of melanogenesis but not cell growth. These effects were specific since corresponding concentrations of the direct precursor and product of melatonin degradation N-acetylserotonin (N-Ac-5HT) and 5- methoxytryptamine (5MT), respectively, did not have any effect on cell proliferation or melanogenesis. At very high concentration (100 μM) both N- Ac-5HT and melatonin could stimulate melanoma proliferation while 5MT inhibited it. The demonstration of differential and unparalleled effects of melatonin on cell proliferation and melanogenesis suggests that melatonin can regulate or modify both processes via different mechanisms. © 1993 Academic Press, Inc.