The proto-oncogene tyrosine kinase c-ROS is an orphan receptor whose normal expression pattern is tightly spatio-temporally restricted during development. In glioma, c-ROS mRNA expression is frequently ectopically up-regulated. In this study, we determined by immunohistochemical means that c-ROS receptor protein is present in 25% of low-grade and 30% of malignant glioma tumor samples from tissue microarrays. We then explored the molecular basis for the up-regulation of c-ROS expression in these tumors. We identified and characterized the c-ROS gene promoter region and report that the ectopic expression of c-ROS in tumors is tied to hypomethylation of a CpG island in the c-ROS promoter. Bisulfite sequencing analysis in glioma tumor samples revealed that demethylation of the CpG island (-384 to -132 bp) correlated with c-ROS expression. Moreover, c-ROS expression could be activated by treatment of c-ROS-negative cells with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. These results establish a strong link between c-ROS promoter demethylation and gain of c-ROS expression and function in glioma. Our data suggest that epigenetic activation of c-ROS represents an important oncogenic mechanism for glioma initiation and progression and suggest that cautionary measures in the clinical use of 5-aza-dC for the treatment of glioma be taken into consideration. [Cancer Res 2009;69(6):2180-4].