An imbalance between proteases and antiproteases may play a role in emphysema, which is characterized by increased degradation of extracellular matrix, and in airway remodeling in chronic bronchitis and asthma, in which there is increased collagen deposition. We assessed the effect of smoking on release of matrix metalloprotease-9 (MMP-9) and of its inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloprotease-1 (TIMP-1), from alveolar macrophages, and determined the effects of proinflammatory (interleukin [IL]-1beta and lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) and antiinflammatory (IL-10) stimuli on the release of MMP-9 and TIMP-1. We performed bronchoalveolar lavage in 11 smokers and 11 nonsmokers, and cultured airway macrophages in the presence of control medium, IL-1beta, and LPS. Airway macrophages from smokers released greater amounts of MMP-9 and TIMP-1 at baseline and in response to IL-1beta and LPS than did those of nonsmokers. Airway macrophages from smokers produced more TNF-alpha and IL-10. IL-10 increased TIMP-1 release without modifying that of MMP-9, leading to a decrease in the MMP-9 to TIMP-1 ratio. Anti-IL-10 antibody had no effect on MMP-9 production induced by LPS. We conclude that the release of proteases and antiproteases by airway macrophages is increased in cigarette smokers, and can be regulated by exogenous IL-10.