In order to identify genes involved in head and neck carcinogenesis, we compared the gene expression profile in matched primary normal epithelial cells and primary head and neck cancer cells from the same patients. A cDNA microarray analysis consisting of 12 530 human genes revealed significant changes in the expression of 213 genes, with 91 genes being up-regulated and 122 being down-regulated. This comprehensive list of genes includes those associated with signal transduction (growth factors), cell structure, cell cycle, transcription, apoptosis, and cell-cell adhesion. Further analysis of nine genes involved in cell-cell interaction, using Western blot and/or reverse transcription (RT)-PCR of four paired cell lines supported the reliability of our microarray analysis. More specifically, our study provides the first evidence that claudin-7 and connexin 31.1 are down-regulated in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) compared to normal cells. These findings provide a large body of information regarding gene expression profiles associated with head and neck carcinogenesis, and also represent a source of potential targets for HNSCC prevention and/or therapeutics.