The pRB cell cycle regulatory cascade is frequently perturbed in neoplasia by overexpression of a component of the pRB-phosphorylating cyclin D1/CDK4 complex or by inactivation of pRB or the CDK4 inhibitors p16 and p15. We investigated the status and expression of p16, p15, CCND1, CDK4 and RB genes in the Ewing family of tumors. P16 loss was observed in 8 of 27 tumors (30%) and in 12 of 23 (52%) tumor cell lines from unrelated patients. There were no discrepancies in the p16 status between primary tumors and the corresponding cell lines and between cell lines established from consecutive tumor samples. p15 was codeleted in most cases but p15 mRNA was absent also in cell lines retaining the gene. In addition, posttranscriptional p16 inactivation was observed in two cases. Although no evidence for CDK4 or CCND1 amplification was obtained, expression of these genes varied considerably in the cell lines in a case specific manner. In wild-type p16 cell lines, pRB expression was lost in one case. Our data indicate that, despite the absence of cytogenetically detectable 9p21 chromosomal aberrations, p16 deletions constitute the most frequent secondary molecular aberration in Ewing tumors so far. These results are discussed in the context of the stage of disease and the clinical outcome of the patients. The potential prognostic impact of these findings remains to be further evaluated.