Cell spreading, proliferation, and survival are modulated by focal adhesions linking extracellular matrix proteins, integrins, and the cytoskeleton. Zyxin is a focal-adhesion-associated phosphoprotein with one domain involved in the control of actin assembly and three protein-protein adapter domains implicated in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. We characterized zyxin expression in normal human melanocytes and six melanoma cell lines in relation to cell spreading, growth, and differentiation using Western immunoblotting techniques, image analysis, flow cytometry, and confocal microscopy. We found that zyxin, focal adhesion kinase, and paxillin were significantly upregulated in melanoma cells compared to melanocytes. Zyxin expression directly related to cell spreading and proliferation and inversely related to differentiation, whereas focal adhesion kinase correlated only to cell spreading and paxillin did not significantly correlate with any of the parameters. Treatment of melanoma cells with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate downregulated zyxin expression, inhibited cell spreading and proliferation, and promoted differentiation. In contrast, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, a mitogen for melanocytes, induced upregulation of zyxin expression in melanocytes. These findings are consistent with a role of zyxin in modulation of cell spreading, proliferation, and differentiation. Therapies directed at the downregulation of this focal adhesion phosphoprotein in melanoma cells implicate a new approach for controlling melanoma cell growth.