p16 (MTS-1, multiple tumor suppressor gene 1), a putative tumor suppressor gene, is one of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDI) and it regulates the G1/S transition of the cell cycle. To clarify the role of p16 in primary gastric cancer, we have investigated somatic mutations of this gene by using the polymerase chain reaction/single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) method. In 23 surgical specimens of primary gastric cancer, none were detected in exon1 and exon 2. Among the 6 human gastric cancer cell lines examined, PCR products were not found in 2, MKN28 and MKN45, suggesting the presence of homozygous deletions. No mutation was found in the other 4 cell lines. Furthermore, decreased expression levels were not observed in 13 gastric cancer tissues by reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR). Considering the above results of PCR-SSCP and RT-PCR, genetic alterations of the p16 gene are rarely implicated in human gastric cancer tumorigenesis.