Leukocyte extravasation into perivascular tissue during inflammation and lymphocyte homing to lymphoid organs involve transient adhesion to the vessel endothelium, followed by transmigration through the endothelial cell (EC) layer and establishment of residency at the tissue site for a period of time. In these processes, leukocytes undergo multiple attachments to, and detachments from, the vessel-lining endothelial cells, prior to transendothelial cell migration. Transmigrating leukocytes must traverse a subendothelial basement membrane en route to perivascular tissues and utilize enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases to make selective clips in the extracellular matrix components of the basement membrane. This review will focus on the evidence for a link between adhesion of leukocytes to endothelial cells, the induction of matrix metalloproteinases mediated by engagement of adhesion receptors on leukocytes, and the ability to utilize these matrix metalloproteinases to facilitate leukocyte invasion of tissues. Leukocytes with invasive phenotypes express high levels of MMPs, and expression of MMPs enhances the migratory and invasive properties of these cells. Furthermore, MMPs may be used by lymphocytes to proteolytically cleave molecules such as adhesion receptors and membrane bound cytokines, increasing their efficiency in the immune response. Engagement of leukocyte adhesion receptors may modulate adhesive (modulation of integrin affinities and expression), synthetic (proteinase induction and activation), and surface organization (clustering of proteolytic complexes) behaviors of invasive leukocytes. Elucidation of these pathways will lead to better understanding of controlling mechanisms in order to develop rational therapeutic approaches in the areas of inflammation and autoimmunity.