Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a growing family of zinc-dependent endopeptidases that are capable of degrading various components of the extracellular matrix. These enzymes have been implicated in a variety of physiological and pathological conditions including embryogenesis and tumour invasion. The synthesis of many MMPs is thought to be regulated by growth factors, cytokines and hormones. In this study, we investigated the effects of five exogenous growth factors known to be expressed by gliomas [epidermal growth factor (EGF), basic growth factor (bFGF), transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta1,2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)].on MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression in an ependymoma, two grade III astrocytomas, a grade III oligoastrocytoma and a benign meningioma. Zymogram analysis revealed that the effects of the growth factors depended upon the cell lines used in the study. Growth factors generally up-regulated MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression in the gliomas but were least effective in the meningioma; the effect being most prominent with TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta2 in all the cell lines. It is hypothesized that paracrine growth factor interplay may be crucial in the regulation of MMP expression by glioma invasion of the normal brain.