Phosphate and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) is a tumor suppressor gene inactivated in numerous sporadic cancers, including melanomas. To analyze Pten functions in melanocytes, we used the Cre-loxP system to delete Pten specifically in murine pigment-producing cells and generated DctCrePten(flox/flox) mice. Half of DctCrePten(flox/flox) mice died shortly after birth with enlargements of the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Melanocytes were increased in the dermis of perinatal DctCrePten(flox/flox) mice. When the mutants were subjected to repeated depilations, melanocyte stem cells in the bulge of the hair follicle resisted exhaustion and the mice were protected against hair graying. Although spontaneous melanomas did not form in DctCrePten(flox/flox) mice, large nevi and melanomas developed after carcinogen exposure. DctCrePten(flox/flox) melanocytes were increased in size and exhibited heightened activation of Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinases, increased expression of Bcl-2, and decreased expression of p27(Kip1). Our results show that Pten is important for the maintenance of melanocyte stem cells and the suppression of melanomagenesis