AIM: To measure the frequency of DNA methylation of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 (TIMP3) promoter and relate this to any change of gene expression in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in patients from a region of high incidence in China.METHODS: Cancer cell lines were treated with or without the demethylating reagent 5-aza-2’-deoxycytidine. Methylation of the TIMP3 promoter was assessed in three regions by melt curve analysis and its expression was assessed by real-time RT-PCR. Tumors and proximal resection margins were obtained from 64 patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma from a region of high incidence in China. Methylation was assessed by melt curve analysis and expression by immunohistochemistry.RESULTS: Methylation in one of the three promoter regions assessed correlated with gene silencing in esophageal cell lines. A degree of methylation of TIMP3 was found in only four esophageal squamous cell carcinomas, and partial loss of TIMP3 protein expression in just one.CONCLUSION: Methylation and loss of expression of TIMP3 occurs infrequently in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in a region of high incidence in China.