Intercellular communication via gap junctions is a mechanism for tumor suppression. Connexin 26 (Cx26) is a structural component of gap junctions expressed by breast epithelial cells. Expression levels of Cx26 are reduced in many breast tumors. Methylation-sensitive single-stranded conformation analysis showed variable methylation in the promoter region CpG island in 11 out of 20 (55%) breast cancer patients. Heterogeneity in methylation patterns was observed both between and within tumors. The degree of methylation ranged from a few CpG dinucleotides to almost all the CpG dinucleotides in the analyzed region. The most frequently methylated CpG was in an Sp1 site known to be important for Cx26 gene expression. One of eight breast cancer cell lines (MD-MBA-453) was methylated in the promoter region and did not express Cx26. Treatment of MDA-MB-453 with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine resulted in the re-expression of Cx26 mRNA. Methylation of the promoter region is likely to be an important mechanism in modulating the expression of Cx26 in breast cancer.