Neoplasms of the endocrine pancreas are extremely rare, and molecular mechanisms influencing their development are poorly understood. Nevertheless, gastrinomas have become a paradigm for the study of hormonally active tumors. In the present study, 12 gastrinoma and nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor specimens were evaluated for genetic alterations of the p16/MTS1 tumor suppressor gene. DNA extracted from microdissected portions of paraffin-embedded tumor sections were examined for mutations and homozygous deletions using "Cold" single-strand conformation polymorphism and semiquantitative PCR-based analyses, respectively. Samples were also analyzed for the presence of 5' CpG island hypermethylation using methylation-specific PCR. The p16/MTS1 gene was found to be homozygously deleted in 41.7% of tumors and methylated in 58.3%, but no mutations were identified by single-strand conformation polymorphism analyses. Overall, 91.7% of the specimens demonstrated inactivating alterations in p16/MTS1. These data suggest that transcriptional silencing of p16/MTS1 is a frequent event in these rare and poorly understood tumors.