OBJECTIVE Desmogleins (DSGs) are major members among the desmosomal cadherins critically involved in cell-cell adhesion and the maintenance of normal tissue architecture in epithelia. Reports exploring links of DSG family member expression with cancers are few and vary. The aim of this study was to investigate the ratio of DSG2 and DSG3 mRNA expression in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) tissue to normal tissue (T/N ratio) and evaluate correlations with clinical parameters. METHODS The mRNA expression of DSGs, as well as γ-catenin and desmoplakin, was detected by real-time quantitative RT-PCR in 85 cases of ESCC tissue specimens. RESULTS The expression level of DSG3 mRNA was significantly higher than that of DSG2 in ESCC specimens (p = 0.000). DSG3 mRNA expression highly correlated with histological grade (p = 0.009), whereas that of DSG2 did not significantly relate to any clinicopathologic parameter. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed that only DSG3 expression had an impact on the survival curve, with negative DSG3 expression indicating worse survival (p = 0.038). Multivariate Cox regression analysis demonstrated DSG3 to be an independent prognostic factor for survival. Furthermore, correlation analysis demonstrated the mRNA level of DSG3 to highly correlate with those of γ-catenin and desmoplakin in ESCC samples (p=0.000), implying that the expression of desmosomal components might be regulated by the same upstream regulatory molecules. CONCLUSIONS Our findings suggest that DSG3 may be involved in the progression of ESCC and serve as a prognostic marker, while expression of DSG2 cannot be used as a predictor of ESCC patient outcome.