Mutations in CDK4 and its key kinase inhibitor p16INK4a have been implicated in the genesis and progression of familial human melanoma. The importance of the CDK4 locus in human cancer first became evident following the identification of a germ line CDK4-Arg24Cys (R24C) mutation, which abolishes the ability of CDK4 to bind to p16INK4a. To determine the role of the Cdk4R24C germ line mutation in the genesis of other cancer types, we introduced the R24C mutation in the Cdk4 locus of mice by using Cre-loxP-mediated "knock-in" technology. Cdk4R24C/R24C mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) displayed increased Cdk4 kinase activity resulting in hyperphosphorylation of all three members of the Rb family, pRb, p107, and p130. MEFs derived from Cdk4R24C/R24C mice displayed decreased doubling times, escape from replicative senescence, and escape sensitivity to contact-induced growth arrest. These MEFs also exhibited a high degree of susceptibility to oncogene-induced transformation, suggesting that the Cdk4R24C mutation can serve as a primary event in the progression towards a fully transformed phenotype. In agreement with the in vitro data, homozygous Cdk4R24C/R24C mice developed tumors of various etiology within 8 to 10 months of their life span. The majority of these tumors were found in the pancreas, pituitary, brain, mammary tissue, and skin. In addition, Cdk4R24C/R24C mice showed extraordinary susceptibility to carcinogens and developed papillomas within the first 8 to 10 weeks following cutaneous application of the carcinogens 9,10-di-methyl-1,2-benz[α]anthracene (DMBA) and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA). This report formally establishes that the activation of Cdk4 is sufficient to promote cancer in many tissues. The observation that a wide variety of tumors develop in mice harboring the Cdk4R24C mutation offers a genetic proof that Cdk4 activation may constitute a central event in the genesis of many types of cancers in addition to melanoma.