BACKGROUND: The C-terminal binding protein 1 (CtBP1) is a known co-repressor of gene transcription. We recently revealed that CtBP1 expression is lost in melanoma cells and melanoma inhibitory activity (MIA) expression is subsequently increased. The present study was performed to evaluate a more general role of CtBP1 in human melanoma and identify further CtBP1-regulated target genes. METHODS: Sequence analysis and expression profile of CtBP1 in melanoma cell lines were done by PCR. Boyden Chamber assays and co-immunoprecipitation were performed to investigate the functional role of CtBP1. Gene expression analysis and micro array data were used to define target genes. RESULTS: Interestingly, we detected an alternative splice product of CtBP1 with unknown function whose expression is induced at reduction of full length CtBP1. Overexpression of full length CtBP1 in melanoma cells had no effect on cell proliferation but did influence cell migration and invasiveness. To understand the effect of CtBP1 we identified putative LEF/TCF target genes found to be strongly expressed in melanoma using DNA microarray analysis. We focused on fourteen genes not previously associated with melanoma. Detailed analysis revealed that most of these were known to be involved in tumor metastasis. Eleven genes had expression profiles associated with melanoma cell invasiveness. CONCLUSION: In summary, this study revealed that reduction of CtBP1 expression is correlated with migratory, invasive potential of melanoma cells.