Alterations of DNA methylation play an important role in gliomas. In a genome-wide screen, we identified a CpG-rich fragment within the 5' region of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, member 11A gene (TNFRSF11A) that showed de novo methylation in gliomas. TNFRSF11A, also known as receptor activator of NF-κB (RANK), activates several signaling pathways, such as NF-κB, JNK, ERK, p38α, and Akt/PKB. Using pyrosequencing, we detected RANK/TNFRSF11A promoter methylation in 8 (57.1%) of 14 diffuse astrocytomas, 17 (77.3%) of 22 anaplastic astrocytomas, 101 (84.2%) of 120 glioblastomas, 6 (100%) of 6 glioma cell lines, and 7 (100%) of 7 glioma stem cell-enriched glioblastoma primary cultures but not in four normal white matter tissue samples. Treatment of glioma cell lines with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine significantly reduced the methylation level and resulted in increased RANK/TNFRSF11A mRNA expression. Overexpression of RANK/TNFRSF11A in glioblastoma cell lines leads to a significant reduction in focus formation and elevated apoptotic activity after flow cytometric analysis. Reporter assay studies of transfected glioma cells supported these results by showing the activation of signaling pathways associated with regulation of apoptosis. We conclude that RANK/TNFRSF11A is a novel and frequent target for de novo methylation in gliomas, which affects apoptotic activity and focus formation thereby contributing to the molecular pathogenesis of gliomas.