The aberrant methylation of promoter CpG islands is known to be a major inactivation mechanism of tumor-related genes. To determine the clinicopathological significance of gene promoter methylation in soft tissue sarcomas, we examined the promoter methylation status of 10 tumor-related genes in 65 soft tissue sarcomas and 19 adjacent non-neoplastic tissues by methylation-specific PCR. The methylation frequencies of tumor-related genes tested in soft tissue sarcomas were 17 (26%) for RASSF1A, 11 (17%) for DAP kinase, 10 (15%) for MGMT, nine (14%) for GSTP1, eight (12%) for PTEN, six (9%) for p16 and hMLH1, five (8%) for hMSH2, two (3%) for p14, and one (2%) for RB. Promoter methylation of these genes was not recognized in non-neoplastic tissues. All those cases of soft tissue sarcoma that had MGMT methylation, with the exception of one case of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, showed large tumor size (> or = 10 cm) or recurrence. Moreover, eight of 10 cases with MGMT methylation revealed high American Joint Committee on Cancer stage. Seven of 10 cases (70%) with MGMT methylation showed a loss of MGMT expression by immunohistochemistry. In addition, MGMT methylation status had a statistically significant correlation with a loss of MGMT expression (P=0.014). In conclusion, although methylation of tumor-related genes was a relatively rare event in soft tissue sarcomas, methylation was tumor-specific. Of 10 tumor-related genes, cases with MGMT methylation had a tendency to be aggressive behavior. Moreover, MGMT methylation was closely associated with a loss of MGMT expression. Although our findings need to be extending to a large series, promoter methylation of tumor-related genes is likely to have an association with the pathogenesis of soft tissue sarcomas. Furthermore, MGMT methylation may be associated with tumor aggressiveness and the inactivation of MGMT gene.