Blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption is thought to play a critical role in the pathophysiology of ischemia/reperfusion. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of proteolytic enzymes that can degrade all the components of the extracellular matrix when they are activated. Gelatinase A (MMP-2) and gelatinase B (MMP-9) are able to digest the endothelial basal lamina, which plays a major role in maintaining BBB impermeability. The present study examined the expression and activation of gelatinases before and after transient focal cerebral ischemia (FCI) in mice. Adult male CD1 mice were subjected to 60 min FCI and reperfusion. Zymography was performed from 1 to 23 h after reperfusion using the protein extraction method with detergent extraction and affinity-support purification. MMP-9 expression was also examined by both immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis, and tissue inhibitors to metalloproteinase-1 was measured by reverse zymography. The BBB opening was evaluated by the Evans blue extravasation method. The 88-kDa activated MMP-9 was absent from the control specimens, while it appeared 3 h after transient ischemia by zymography. At this time point, the BBB permeability alteration was detected in the ischemic brain. Both pro-MMP-9 (96 kDa) and pro-MMP-2 (72 kDa) were seen in the control specimens, and were markedly increased after FCI. A significant induction of MMP-9 was confirmed by both immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. The early appearance of activated MMP-9, associated with evidence of BBB permeability alteration, suggests that activation of MMP-9 contributes to the early formation of vasogenic edema after transient FCI.