The growth suppressing activity of the retinoblastoma suspectibility gene product, pRb, is down regulated by cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4 and CDK6) whose kinase activity is negatively regulated by CDK inhibitors of the p16 family. We have examined the genomic status of two recently isolated p16-related CDK inhibitors, p15 and p18, in 15 normal and 73 tumor-derived cell lines established from 23 different tissues, as well as 26 invasive primary breast cancers and 20 acute myelogenous leukemias. p15 was found to be homozygously deleted in 22% of the tumor derived cell lines, but no point mutations were found in either the cultured cells or the two types of primary tumors. With the exception of one breast cancer cell line, no deletions or mutations were found in the p18 gene in either cultured cell lines or primary tumors. These results indicate that mutation of the p18 gene occurs rarely in human tumors. Thus, while they share a very similar biochemical mechanism of inhibiting the kinase activity of CDK4 and CDK6, members of the p16 gene family play different roles in controlling cell proliferation and suppressing tumor growth.