P16INK4 is a cell cycle regulator that specifically binds to and inactivates cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4). Its encoding gene (p16/CDKN2) maps to chromosome 9p21, a region that undergoes frequent loss of heterozygosity in a variety of human tumors. We have analyzed the p16/CDKN2 gene and its expression in a series of primary glioma samples. Although homozygous deletion or mutation of the p16/CDKN2 gene was uncommon in this series and P16INK4 protein was detectable in all grade II tumors, it was present in only 50% of grade III and grade IV samples. Conversely, in some grade IV tumors the level of P16INK4 protein was elevated; in these cases, its target, CDK4, was amplified and overexpressed. These results suggest: (a) the involvement of P16INK4 in glioma progression; (b) that mechanisms other than mutation or deletion can down-regulate expression of the p16/CDKN2 gene; and (c) that the balance between CDK4 and its cognate inhibitor, P16INK4, may confer a cell growth advantage and facilitate tumor progression.

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This work is supported in part by the CNPq/Brazilian National Research Council (W. A.).

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