BACKGROUND: Combination therapy with BRAF and MEK inhibitors significantly improves survival in BRAF mutated melanoma patients but is unable to prevent disease recurrence due to the emergence of drug resistance. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been involved in these long-term treatment failures. We previously reported in lung cancer that CSCs maintenance is due to altered lipid metabolism and dependent upon Stearoyl-CoA-desaturase (SCD1)-mediated upregulation of YAP and TAZ. On this ground, we investigated the role of SCD1 in melanoma CSCs.METHODS: SCD1 gene expression data of melanoma patients were downloaded from TCGA and correlated with disease progression by bioinformatics analysis and confirmed on patient's tissues by qRT-PCR and IHC analyses. The effects of combination of BRAF/MEKi and the SCD1 inhibitor MF-438 were monitored by spheroid-forming and proliferation assays on a panel of BRAF-mutated melanoma cell lines grown in 3D and 2D conditions, respectively. SCD1, YAP/TAZ and stemness markers were evaluated in melanoma cells and tissues by qRT-PCR, WB and Immunofluorescence.RESULTS: We first observed that SCD1 expression increases during melanoma progression. BRAF-mutated melanoma 3D cultures enriched for CSCs overexpressed SCD1 and were more resistant than 2D differentiated cultures to BRAF and MEK inhibitors. We next showed that exposure of BRAF-mutated melanoma cells to MAPK pathway inhibitors enhanced stemness features by upregulating the expression of YAP/TAZ and downstream genes but surprisingly not SCD1. However, SCD1 pharmacological inhibition was able to downregulate YAP/TAZ and to revert at the same time CSC enrichment and resistance to MAPK inhibitors.CONCLUSIONS: Our data underscore the role of SCD1 as prognostic marker in melanoma and promote the use of SCD1 inhibitors in combination with MAPK inhibitors for the control of drug resistance.