A cDNA encoding a novel human matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), named MMP-26, was cloned from fetal cDNA. The deduced 261-amino-acid sequence is homologous to macrophage metalloelastase (51.8% identity). It includes only the minimal characteristic features of the MMP family: a signal peptide, a prodomain and a catalytic domain. As with MMP-7, this new MMP does not comprise the hemopexin domain, which is believed to be involved in substrate recognition. A study of MMP-26 mRNA steady states levels reveals, among the tissue examined, a specific expression in placenta. MMP-26 mRNA could also be detected in several human cell lines such as HEK 293 kidney cells and HFB1 lymphoma cells. Recombinant MMP-26 was produced in mammalian cells and used to demonstrate a proteolytic activity of the enzyme on gelatin and beta-casein.