The tumor-suppressor gene PTEN/MMAC1, on chromosome 10q23.3, has been implicated in an important number of human tumors, such as thyroid carcinomas. PTEN somatic mutations occur in sporadic tumors of the endometrium, brain, prostate, or melanomas, while germline mutations predispose to development of the multiple hamartoma syndromes (i.e., Cowden's disease and Bannayan-Zonana syndrome). Activation of the two alleles of PTEN is required for its tumor-suppression role. Because the frequency of PTEN suppression in thyroid tumors exceeds that of PTEN mutations or deletions, it is very likely that epigenetic mechanisms, such as promoter hypermethylation, may account for its inactivation in a subset of tumors. The main aim of this study was to assess the frequency of promoter hypermethylation of PTEN in thyroid tumors. We studied frozen tissue samples from 46 papillary carcinomas, 7 follicular carcinomas, 6 follicular adenomas as well as 39 normal thyroid tissue samples. Methylation-specific polymerase-chain reaction (PCR) with three different sets of primers was used. Two of the primer sets were designed to avoid any interference with PTEN pseudogene promoter. PTEN promoter hypermethylation was detected in 21 of 46 (45.7%) papillary carcinomas, 6 of 7 follicular carcinomas, and 5 of 6 follicular adenomas. It was negative in all normal tissues. Negative immunohistochemical staining for PTEN was significantly associated with the presence of promoter hypermethylation (p < 0.001). These results show a high frequency of PTEN promoter hypermethylation, especially in follicular tumors, suggesting its possible role in thyroid tumorigenesis. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.