p16INK4 gene, which encodes a specific inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4), has been recently reported as an important tumour suppressor gene. It is mapped to chromosome 9p21, which is frequently deleted or mutated in many tumour cell lines including malignant melanoma. Since the CDK4/cyclin D complex propels a cell to go through the G1 check point of the cell cycle, a critical phase of cell division, alteration of the p16INK4 gene could lead a cell to uncontrolled proliferation and malignant transformation. To clarify any role for p16INK4 and CDK4 proteins in the development of human malignant melanoma, we have examined, immunohistochemically, the expression of these two proteins in melanocytic neoplasms including 19 primary lesions of non-familial melanoma. Intense nuclear and/or cytoplasmic expression of the CDK4 protein was observed in 11 of 19 cases (58%) of melanoma. In contrast, virtually no nuclear or cytoplasmic staining for CDK4 protein was detected in 28 benign melanocytic naevi, including six Spitz naevi. Expression of p16INK4 protein was observed in three of 19 melanomas (16%) and in 17 of 28 benign naevi (61%). Inverse expression of CDK4 and p16INK4, at individual cell level, was detected in one case of melanoma. The present study suggests that CDK4 overexpression is characteristic for malignant melanoma, and probably reflects its autonomous accelerated cell proliferation. The expression rate of p16INK4 protein in malignant melanoma was lower than that in benign naevi, although the significance of p16INK4 deletion in melanoma development has not been definitely confirmed.