To identify novel markers differentially expressed in ovarian cancer versus normal ovary, we hybridized microarrays with cDNAs derived from normal human ovaries and advanced stage ovarian carcinomas. This analysis revealed down-regulation of the caveolin-1 gene (CAV1) in ovarian carcinoma samples. Suppression of CAV1 in ovarian carcinomas was confirmed using a tumor tissue array consisting of 68 cDNA pools from different matched human tumor and normal tissues. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated expression of caveolin-1 in normal and benign ovarian epithelial cells, but loss of expression in serous ovarian carcinomas. In low-grade carcinomas, redistribution of caveolin-1 from a membrane-associated pattern observed in normal epithelium to a cytoplasmic localization pattern was observed. No expression of caveolin-1 was detectable in four of six ovarian carcinoma cell lines investigated. In SKOV-3 and ES-2 carcinoma cells, which express high levels of the caveolin-1 protein, phosphorylation of the 22-kd caveolin-1 isoform was detected. Inhibition of both DNA methylation and histone deacetylation using 5-aza-2'deoxycytidine and Trichostatin A, respectively, relieves down-regulation of caveolin-1 in OAW42 and OVCAR-3 cells which is in part mediated by direct regulation at the mRNA level. Expression of CAV1 in the ovarian carcinoma cell line OVCAR-3, resulted in suppression of tumor cell survival in vitro, suggesting that the CAV1 gene is likely to act as a tumor suppressor gene in human ovarian epithelium.