We investigated the expression and activation of matrix metalloproteinases in a model of experimental wounds in rats, and their modulation by glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu(II), a potent activator of wound repair. Wound chambers were inserted under the skin of Sprague-Dawley rats and received serial injections of either 2 mg glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu(II) or the same volume of saline. The wound fluid and the neosynthetized connective tissue deposited in the chambers were collected and analyzed for matrix metalloproteinase expression and/or activity. Interstitial collagenase increased progressively in the wound fluid throughout the experiment. Glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu(II) treatment did not alter its activity. Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (gelatinase B) and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (gelatinase A) were the two main gelatinolytic activities expressed during the healing process. Pro-matrix metalloproteinase (pro-form of matrix metalloproteinase)-9 was strongly expressed during the early stages of wound healing (day 3). In the wound fluid, it decreased rapidly and disappeared after day 18, whereas in the wound tissue, matrix metalloproteinase-9 expression persisted in the glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu(II) injected chamber until day 22. Pro-matrix metalloproteinase-2 was expressed at low levels at the beginning of the healing process, increased progressively until day 7, then decreased until day 18. Activated matrix metalloproteinase-2 was present in wound fluid and wound tissue. It increased until day 12, then decreased progressively. Glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu(II) injections increased pro-matrix metalloproteinase-2 and activated matrix metalloproteinase-2 during the later stages of healing (days 18 and/or 22). These results demonstrate that various types of matrix metalloproteinases are selectively expressed or activated at the various periods of wound healing. Glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu(II) is able to modulate their expression and might significantly alter wound remodeling.