The genes of murine cyclin D-dependent kinase inhibitors, p15INK4b and p16INK4a, are located in a region of chromosome 4 where overlapping deletions were found in lung adenocarcinomas. The p16INK4a gene uniquely consists of alternative first exons (E1alpha and E1beta), which are spliced to exon 2 in alternative reading frames to either encode p16INK4a (alpha form) or another potential tumor suppressor, p19ARF (beta form). We examined 99 lung adenocarcinomas of C3H/HeJ x A/J F1(C3AF1) and A/J x C3H/HeJ F1(AC3F1) mouse hybrids and 18 (13 metastatic, 5 nonmetastatic) tumorigenic mouse lung epithelial cell lines for p15INK4b and p16INK4a gene inactivation. Homozygous codeletion occurred in eight of the 13 (62%) metastatic, four of the five (80%) nonmetastatic cell lines, but in only six of 99 (6%) adenocarcinomas. Neither p15INK4b nor p16INK4a gene was individually deleted in any of the tumors or cell lines, and all deletions of the p16INK4a gene extended into exon 2, which would be expected to disrupt the functions of both p16INK4a and p19ARF. We also detected no intragenic mutations of either gene in 44 tumors that displayed loss of heterozygosity at the p16INK4a locus or in any of the cell lines. Transcript levels of p16INK4a-alpha, p16INK4a-beta and p15INK4b also were examined in each of the cell lines that retained copies of these genes. Whereas an immortal mouse lung epithelial cell line (E10) and two metastatic tumor cell lines (LM1 and E9) expressed p16INK4a-beta and p15INK4b mRNA, the alpha transcript of p16INK4a was detected in only the LM1 cell line. These results suggest that both p15INK4b and p16INK4a (alpha and beta) are targets of inactivation in mouse lung tumorigenesis.