Tumors of the endocrine pancreas are extremely rare, and molecular mechanisms leading to their development are not well understood. A candidate tumor suppressor gene, DPC4, located at 18q21, has recently been shown to be inactivated in half of pancreatic adenocarcinoma xenografts. The close anatomical relationship of the exocrine and endocrine pancreas prompted us to determine the role of DPC4 in the tumorigenesis of 25 pancreatic islet cell tumors (11 insulinomas, nine non-functioning endocrine carcinomas, three gastrinomas, two vipomas). A mutation screening of the highly conserved COOH-terminal domain of DPC4 (exons 8-11) was performed by single-strand conformational variant (SSCP) analysis and a PCR-based deletion assay. Five of nine (55%) non-functioning endocrine pancreatic carcinomas revealed either point mutations, small intragenic deletions or homozygous deletion of DPC4 sequences compared to none of the insulinomas, gastrinomas or vipomas. These results suggest that DPC4 is an important target gene promoting tumorigenesis of non-functioning neuroendocrine pancreatic carcinomas.