Multiple myeloma (MM) is a clonal neoplasm of plasma cells which offers an excellent model to study multistep molecular oncogenesis. In 20-25% of primary tumors and cell lines examined, cyclin D1 is overexpressed due to the translocation t(11;14)(q13;q32). We have characterized cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p15 (CDKN2B), p16 (CDKN2A) and p18 (CDKN2C) deletions in cyclin D1-expressing and non-expressing MM cell lines. p18 was found to be frequently deleted (38%); in some cases p18 deletions coexisted with hemizygous p16 deletion. To examine the function of p18 as a putative tumor suppressor in myeloma cells, a zinc-inducible p18 construct was stably transfected into KMS12, a MM cell line with biallelic p18 and monoallelic p16 deletions as well as cyclin D1 overexpression. Ectopic expression of p18 caused 40-45% growth suppression as determined by trypan blue exclusion and MTS assays. p18 induction also resulted in apoptosis, suggesting that inhibition of the cyclin D1/CDK/pRb pathway in these tumor cells could be a crucial step toward the induction of tumor regression via apoptotic cell death. This cell cycle pathway is thus frequently mutated and provides a potentially novel target for gene therapeutic or pharmacologic approaches to human myeloma.