Melatonin has been shown to have oncostatic effects on malignant melanoma in vitro and in vivo. We studied the growth suppressive effects of melatonin over a wide range of concentrations in four melanoma cell lines (SBCE2, WM-98, WM-164 and SKMEL-188) representative for different growth stages and phenotype. Melanoma cells were incubated with melatonin 10-12-10-3 M, and proliferation and clonogenicity was assessed at 12 h and 14 days, respectively. We also determined the expression of cytosolic quinone oxidoreductases NQO1, NQO2 (known as MT3 receptor) and nuclear receptor RORα by RT-PCR. Melatonin at pharmacological concentrations (10 -3-10-7 M) suppressed proliferation in all melanoma cell lines. In SKMEL-188 cells cultured in serum-free media, melatonin at low concentrations (10-12-10-10 M) also slightly attenuated the proliferation. The effects of pharmacological doses of melatonin were confirmed in the clonogenic assay. Expression of NQO1 was detected in all cell lines, whereas NQO2 and nuclear receptor RORα including its isoform RORα4 were present only in SBCE2, WM-164 and WM-98. Thus, melatonin differentially suppressed proliferation in melanoma cell lines of different behaviour. The intensity of the oncostatic response to melatonin could be related to the cell-line specific pattern of melatonin cellular receptors and cytosolic binding protein expression.