Aberrant hypermethylation occurs in tumour cell CpG islands and is an important pathway for the repression of gene transcription in cancers. We investigated aberrant hypermethylation of 11 genes by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR), after treatment of the DNA with bisulphite, and correlated the findings with MYCN amplification and allelic status at 1p in a series of 44 neuroblastic tumours. This tumour series includes five ganglioneuromas (G), one ganglioneuroblastoma (GN) and 38 neuroblastomas (six stage 1 tumours; five stage 2 tumours; six stage 3 cases; 19 stage 4 tumours, and two stage 4S cases). Aberrant methylation of at least one of the 11 genes studied was detected in 95% (42 of 44) of the cases. The frequencies of aberrant methylation were: 64% for thrombospondin-1 (THBS1); 30% for tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 (TIMP-3); 27% for O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT); 25% for p73; 18% for RB1; 14% for death-associated protein kinase (DAPK), p14ARF, p16INK4a and caspase 8, and 0% for TP53 and glutathione S-transferase P1 (GSTP1). No aberrant methylation was observed in four control normal tissue samples (brain and adrenal medulla). MYCN amplification was found in 11 cases (all stage 4 neuroblastomas), whereas allelic loss at 1p was identified in 16 samples (13 stage 4 and two stage 3 neuroblastomas, and one ganglioneuroma). All but one case with caspase 8 methylation also displayed MYCN amplification. Our results suggest that promoter hypermethylation is a frequent epigenetic event in the tumorigenesis of neuroblastic tumours, but no specific pattern of hypermethylated genes could be demonstrated.