Melanoma cell expression of the nerve growth factor receptor CD271 is associated with stem-like properties. However, the contributing role of the receptor in melanoma cell migration is elusive. Here, we explored extracranial (skin, soft tissue, lymph node and liver, n = 13) and matched brain metastases (BM, n = 12) and observed a heterogeneous distribution of phenotypically distinct subsets of CD271+ cells. In addition, we observed that CD271 expression gradually rises along with melanoma progression and metastasis by exploration of publicly available expression data of nevi, primary melanoma (n = 31) and melanoma metastases (n = 54). Furthermore, we observed highest levels of CD271 in BM. Sub-clustering identified 99 genes differentially expressed among CD271high and CD271low (p < 0.05) BM-subgroups. Comparative analysis of subsets revealed increased ( ≥ 1.5fold, log2) expression of migration-associated genes and enrichment of CD271-responsible genes involved in DNA-repair and stemness. Live cell-imaging based scratch-wound assays of melanoma cells with stable knock-down of CD271 revealed a significantly reduced cell migration (3.9fold, p = 1.2E-04) and a reduced expression of FGF13, CSPG4, HMGA2 and AKT3 major candidate regulatory genes of melanoma cell migration. In summary, we provide new insights in melanoma cell migration and suggest that CD271 serves as a candidate regulator, sufficient to determine cellular properties of melanoma brain metastatic cells.