Mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK/RAS) signalling pathway frequently provide a proliferative signal in myeloid malignancies. However, the role of RASSF1A, SHP-1 and SOCS-1, negative regulators of RTK/RAS signalling, has not been extensively investigated in the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) or acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). This study employed methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (MS-PCR) to determine if aberrant promotor methylation of RASSF1A, SHP-1 and SOCS-1 is involved in the pathogenesis of myeloid malignancies. Patients with MDS (n = 107), AML (n = 154) and juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML, n = 5) were investigated, together with 15 normal controls. Primers were located in the promotor region of each gene as well as within exon 2 of SOCS-1. Methylation of RASSF1A was found in five of 55 (9%) MDS cases, but not in any of 57 AML cases studied. RASSF1A methylation was present in one case (20%) of JMML. SHP-1 methylation was present in 13 of 121 (11%) AML cases but was not found in MDS or JMML. SOCS-1 promoter methylation was present in eight of 74 (11%) MDS patients but was not seen in JMML or AML. Importantly, RAS mutations and RASSF1A and SOCS-1 methylation were mutually exclusive indicating that approximately 30% of MDS cases had a defect of the RTK/RAS pathway and its negative regulation. Finally, SOCS-1 exon 2 methylation may not be pathogenetically relevant, since it was detected in samples from normal individuals and did not correlate with promotor methylation.