Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) induces a rapid, within seconds, and dose-dependent increase in the intracellular Ca2+ in both human and hamster melanoma cells. This effect is inhibited by depletion of extracellular calcium using 3 mM EGTA and is attenuated by the CRF receptor antagonist, α-helical-CRF(9-41). Other peptides of the CRF superfamily, sauvagine and urocortin, also induce increases in cytoplasmic calcium concentration but at higher concentrations than CRF. We conclude that malignant melanocytes express CRF receptors, which are coupled to activation of plasma membrane calcium channels. Copyright (C) 1998 Federation of European Biochemical Societies.