The tumor suppressor gene DPC4/Smad4 at 18q21.1 is inactive in about 50% of pancreatic carcinoma xenografts and cell lines. However, the role of DPC4 in the multistep carcinogenesis of primary pancreatic adenocarcinomas remains uncertain. Therefore, we examined 45 primary human pancreatic adenocarcinomas and 12 pancreatic cancer cell lines for DPC4 alterations by single-strand conformational variant (SSCV) analysis and a PCR-based deletion assay. DPC4 was inactivated by either homozygous deletion or point mutation in 6 of 12 cell lines (50%). None of the primary pancreatic carcinomas carried a DPC4 mutation, although 66% revealed LOH of 18q21 sequences. These findings suggest that inactivation of DPC4 occurs more frequently in tumor-derived cell lines than in primary pancreatic adenocarcinomas. In addition, another, yet unidentified, tumor suppressor gene(s) may be linked with the frequent LOH of 18q21 in primary pancreatic adenocarcinomas.