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The p27 gene is a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, which arrest G1- to S-phase transition of the cell cycle. We have previously shown a significant reduction of p27 mRNA expression level in laser-microdissected mammary carcinomas and their lymph node metastases when compared to non-neoplastic mammary gland of the same dog. Here, p27 expression was analyzed on the protein level in non-neoplastic mammary gland, primary mammary carcinomas, their lymph node metastases and intravascular tumor cells of 49 dogs, adenomas of 49 dogs and non-neoplastic mammary gland of 98 dogs by immunohistochemistry. A significantly (p0.05) decreased percentage of p27 positive tissue samples was found when normal gland was compared with adenomas, carcinomas and lymph node metastases. Specifically, 91% of normal gland epithelium displayed nuclear p27 expression. In contrast, only 22% of the adenomas, 20% of carcinomas, 12% of lymph node metastases and 32% of intravascular tumor cells had p27 reactivity. Cell cycle control by p27 is therefore lost in the majority of canine mammary tumors. The lack of significant differences between benign and malignant mammary tumors indicates that decreased p27 expression is an early step in carcinogenesis of canine mammary tumors and hinders the use of p27 as a marker of malignancy for this tumor type.