It has been shown recently that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are elevated after cerebral ischemia. In the current study, we investigated the pathophysiologic role for MMP-9 (gelatinase B, EC.220.127.116.11) in a mouse model of permanent focal cerebral ischemia, using a combination of genetic and pharmacologic approaches. Zymography and Western blot analysis demonstrated that MMP-9 protein levels were rapidly up-regulated in brain after ischemic onset. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction showed increased transcription of MMP-9. There were no differences in systemic hemodynamic parameters and gross cerebrovascular anatomy between wild type mice and mutant mice with a targeted knockout of the MMP-9 gene. After induction of focal ischemia, similar reductions in cerebral blood flow were obtained. In the MMP-9 knockout mice, ischemic lesion volumes were significantly reduced compared with wild type littermates in male and female mice. In normal wild type mice, the broad spectrum MMP inhibitor BB-94 (batimastat) also significantly reduced ischemic lesion size. However, BB-94 had no detectable protective effect when administered to MMP-9 knockout mice subjected to focal cerebral ischemia. These data demonstrate that MMP-9 plays a deleterious role in the development of brain injury after focal ischemia.