Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are now acknowledged as key players in the regulation of both cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions. They are involved in modifying matrix structure, growth factor availability and the function of cell surface signalling systems, with consequent effects on cellular differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. They play central roles in morphogenesis, wound healing, tissue repair and remodelling in response to injury and in the progression of diseases such as arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Because of their wide spectrum of activities and expression sites, the elucidation of their potential as drug targets in disease or as important features of the repair process will be dependent upon careful analysis of their role in different cellular locations and at different disease stages. Novel approaches to the specific regulation of individual MMPs in different contexts are also being developed.