A high incidence of gene mutations or deletions of p16INK4, a cell cycle regulator which inhibits the activity of cyclin-dependent kinase 4/cyclin D complex and blocks the G1-to-S transition, has been reported in pancreato-biliary tract cancers. In order to investigate p16INK4 gene alterations in sporadic ampullary carcinomas, 17 sporadic ampullary carcinomas were examined. After histological diagnosis, DNA samples extracted separately from both cancerous and normal paraffin-embedded tissues were investigated. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) was investigated utilizing 3 microsatellite markers on 9p21-22, and a mutational analysis was performed by cloning and sequencing. LOH was observed in 3 cases (17.6%) and somatic mutations with retention of heterozygosity were found in 7 cases (41.2%). Of note was that two mutations resulted in truncated incomplete proteins and one was a point mutation at the consensus site in the conserved ankyrin repeats, which would be crucial for function. Although two-hit inactivation was not evident in any of the mutation cases and further investigation would be needed to elucidate the role of altered p16INK4, these results suggest that the p16INK4 gene mutations are relatively frequent and its inactivation might be important in ampullary carcinogenesis.