Desmosomes are intercellular junctions that confer strong cell-cell adhesion. Altered expression of desmocollin 3 (DSC3), a member of the desmosomal cadherin family, was found in various cancers; however, its functional involvement in carcinogenesis has not yet been elucidated. Expression/localization of DSC3 was analyzed by real-time reverse transcription-PCR, western blotting, immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry. Methylation status of DSC3 was examined by demethylation tests, methylation-specific PCR and bisulfite sequencing. It turned out that downregulation of DSC3 in lung cancer cells was associated with DNA hypermethylation. In primary lung tumors, DSC3 was a potential diagnostic marker for lung squamous cell carcinoma, and DSC3 DNA hypermethylation was correlated with poor clinical outcome. To investigate the effect of the tumor suppressor gene p53 on DSC3, transient transfection with a wild-type p53-expression vector was performed. Overexpression of p53 resulted in an increased expression of DSC3 in a DSC3-unmethylated lung cancer cell line H2170, but not in H1299, a DSC3-methylated cell line. However, combination of p53 transfection with demethylation agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine treatment led to increased expression of DSC3 in H1299 cells. Furthermore, functional studies after stable transfection of a DSC3 expression vector showed that ectopic expression of DSC3 inhibited cell proliferation, anchorage-independent growth, migration, as well as invasion, and most interestingly led to reduced phosphorylation levels of extracellular signal-regulated kinase1/2. Taken together, our data suggested that DSC3 acts as a novel tumor suppressor gene through inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor/extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling in lung cancer cells.