MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression. Hsa-miR-9 has been shown to have opposite functions in different tumour types; however, the underlying mechanism is unclear. Here we show that hsa-miR-9 is down-regulated in metastatic melanomas compared to primary melanomas. Overexpression of miR-9 in melanoma cells resulted in significantly decreased cell proliferation and migratory capacity with decreased F-actin polymerization and down-regulation of multiple GTPases involved in cytoskeleton remodelling. miR-9 overexpression induced significant down-regulation of Snail1 with a concomitant increase in E-cadherin expression. In contrast, knockdown of miR-9 increased Snail1 expression as well as melanoma cell proliferation and migration capacity. Mechanistically, miR-9 expression down-regulated NF-κB1 in melanoma and the effect was abolished by mutations in the putative miR-9 binding sites within the 3′-untranslated region (UTR) of NF-κB1. Anti-miR-9 miRNA inhibitor also increased the expression of NF-κB1. The effects of miR-9 on Snail1 expression and melanoma cell proliferation and migration were rescued by overexpression of NF-κB1 in these cells. Furthermore, miR-9 overexpression resulted in significantly decreased melanoma growth and metastasis in vivo. In summary, miR-9 inhibits melanoma proliferation and metastasis through down-regulation of the NF-κB1-Snail1 pathway. This study finds a new mechanism that miR-9 utilizes to decrease E-cadherin expression and inhibit melanoma progression. The results suggest that function of microRNAs is context and tumour type-specific. Copyright © 2011 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.