The p16 protein is encoded by the CDKN2 gene, and functions as an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and 6 (CDK4/6). Phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein (pRb) by CDK4/6 represents a vital step in cell cycle progression. Alterations of p16INK4A are frequent events in human malignancies. In non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) the data concerning the mechanisms of p16INK4A inactivation suggest that point mutations and aberrant methylation of its promoter can only account for a proportion of the cases with abnormal p16 immunoexpression. The role of deletions in this procedure is not yet clarified. In order to gain more insight into the role of deletions in p16INK4A deregulated expression, we investigated the state of the chromosomal region 9p21-22 in a series of 57 NSCLCs, by performing a detailed mapping analysis, using a tight cluster of highly polymorphic microsatellite markers, and correlating the findings with p16 immunostaining. Abnormal p16 expression was observed in 46% of the NSCLCs examined. No relationship was observed between p16 abnormal staining and various clinicopathological parameters. Abnormal p16 protein staining was strongly associated with hemizygous deletions at the IFNA and D9S171 microsatellite loci, which demarcate the region encoding the p16INK4A gene (P = 0.002). These findings suggest that deregulated expression of p16 is involved in the multistage process of NSCL carcinogenesis and that deletions may represent a predominant mechanism of p16INK4A inactivation. A significant percentage also of LOH was noticed at the D9S162 (35%) and D9S126 (38%) loci which lie 6cM and 4cM, respectively, far from the area which encodes p16INK4A, implying that other tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) may reside in this region. Although the overall incidence of LOH at the examined region was high (58%), we did not observe any correlation with smoking habits, histology and lymph node status. Another noteworthy finding was the existence of microsatellite instability (MI) in 11% of the patients. MI provides a marker for replication error phenotype (RER+), a recently defined manifestation of genetic instability observed in a wide range of tumors. In conclusion, alterations (LOH + MI) at the 9p21-22 chromosome region are frequent events in NSCLCs and may affect directly or indirectly the expression of p16.