Caveolin-1 (Cav-1), a member of the caveolin family, regulates caveolae-associated signaling proteins, which are involved in many biological processes, including cancer development. Cav-1 was found to exert a complex and ambiguous role as oncogene or tumor suppressor depending on the cellular microenvironment. Here we investigated Cav-1 expression and function in a panel of melanomas, finding its expression in all the cell lines. The exception was the primary vertical melanoma cell line, WM983A, characterized by the lack of Cav-1, and then utilized as a recipient for Cav-1 gene transduction to address a series of functional studies. The alleged yet controversial role of phospho (Ph)-Cav-1 on cell regulation was also tested by transducing the nonphosphorylatable Cav-1Y14A mutant. Wild-type Cav-1, but not mutated Cav-1Y14A, increased tumorigenicity as indicated by enhanced proliferation, migration, invasion and capacity of forming foci in semisolid medium. Accordingly, Cav-1 silencing inhibited melanoma cell growth reducing some of the typical traits of malignancy. Finally, we detected a secreted fraction of Cav-1 associated with cell released microvesicular particles able to stimulate in vitro anchorage independence, migration and invasion in a paracrine/autocrine fashion and, more important, competent to convey metastatic asset from the donor melanoma to the less aggressive recipient cell line. A direct correlation between Cav-1 levels, the amount of microvesicles released in the culture medium and MMP-9 expression was also observed. © 2009 UICC.