PURPOSE: The transcription factors GATA4 and GATA5 are involved in gastrointestinal development and are inactivated by promoter hypermethylation in colorectal cancer. Here, we evaluated GATA4/5 promoter methylation as potential biomarkers for noninvasive colorectal cancer detection, and investigated the role of GATA4/5 in colorectal cancer. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Promoter methylation of GATA4/5 was analyzed in colorectal tissue and fecal DNA from colorectal cancer patients and healthy controls using methylation-specific PCR. The potential function of GATA4/5 as tumor suppressors was studied by inducing GATA4/5 overexpression in human colorectal cancer cell lines. RESULTS: GATA4/5 methylation was observed in 70% (63/90) and 79% (61/77) of colorectal carcinomas, respectively, and was independent of clinicopathologic features. Methylation frequencies in normal colon tissues from noncancerous controls were 6% (5 of 88, GATA4; P < 0.001) and 13% (13 of 100, GATA5; P < 0.001). GATA4/5 overexpression suppressed colony formation (P < 0.005), proliferation (P < 0.001), migration (P < 0.05), invasion (P < 0.05), and anchorage-independent growth (P < 0.0001) of colorectal cancer cells. Examination of GATA4 methylation in fecal DNA from two independent series of colorectal cancer patients and controls yielded a sensitivity of 71% [95% confidence interval (95% CI), 55-88%] and specificity of 84% (95% CI, 74-95%) for colorectal cancer detection in the training set, and a sensitivity of 51% (95% CI, 37-65%) and specificity of 93% (95% CI, 84-100%) in the validation set. CONCLUSIONS: Methylation of GATA4/5 is a common and specific event in colorectal carcinomas, and GATA4/5 exhibit tumor suppressive effects in colorectal cancer cells in vitro. GATA4 methylation in fecal DNA may be of interest for colorectal cancer detection.