In this study, we performed two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time of fly mass spectrometry to identify the protein(s) associated with the development of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs) by comparing patterns of OSCC-derived cell lines with normal oral keratinocytes (NOKs), and found that downregulation of ubiquitous mitochondrial creatine kinase (CKMT1) could be a good candidate. Decreased levels of CKMT1 mRNA and protein were detected in all OSCC-derived cell lines examined (n=9) when compared to those in primary normal oral keratinocytes. Although no sequence variation in the coding region of the CKMT1 gene with the exception of a nonsense mutation in exon 8 was identified in these cell lines, we found a frequent hypermethylation in the CpG island region. CKMT1 expression was restored by experimental demethylation. In addition, when we transfected CKMT1 into the cell lines, they showed an apoptotic phenotype but no invasiveness. In clinical samples, high frequencies of CKMT1 downregulation were detected by immunohistochemistry (19 of 52 (37%)) and quantitative real-time RT-PCR (21 of 50 (42%)). Furthermore, the CKMT1 expression status was significantly correlated with tumour differentiation (P<0.0001). These results suggest that the CKMT1 gene is frequently inactivated during oral carcinogenesis and that an epigenetic mechanism may regulate loss of expression, which may lead to block apoptosis.