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The cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p21 and p27 are important regulators of cell cycle progression. To analyze their role in the malignant progression of canine mammary tumors expression levels of p27 and p21 and its major regulator p53 were compared in simple adenomas, adenocarcinomas of the mammary gland and lymph node metastases with normal mammary gland. Laser microdissection of tissue samples and real-time PCR were used for quantification of mRNA expression levels. p21 was overexpressed in adenocarcinomas, whereas adenomas and metastases expressed p21 more heterogeneously. Comparison of p21 expression in adenocarcinomas and their metastases revealed a significant decrease in expression in metastases. In contrast, p27 expression was reduced in the adenocarcinomas but heterogeneously expressed in adenomas and metastases. Taken together the results suggest that loss of p21 overexpression is associated with tumor metastasis while reduced cell cycle inhibition by p27 is associated with malignant progression.