Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are upregulated locally in sites of inflammation, including the lung. Several MMP activities are upregulated in acute lung injury models but the exact role that these MMPs play in the development of the lung injury is unclear due to the absence of specific inhibitors. To determine the involvement of individual MMPs in the development of lung injury, mice genetically deficient in gelatinase B (MMP-9) and stromelysin 1 (MMP-3) were acutely injured with immunoglobulin G immune complexes and the intensity of the lung injury was compared with genetically identical wild-type (WT) mice with normal MMP activities. In the WT mice there was upregulation of gelatinase B and stromelysin 1 in the injured lungs which, as expected, was absent in the genetically deficient gelatinase B- and stromelysin 1-deficient mice, respectively. In the deficient mice there was little in the way of compensatory upregulation of other MMPs. The gelatinase B- and the stromelysin 1-deficient mice had less severe lung injury than did the WT controls, suggesting that both MMPs are involved in the pathogenesis of the lung injury. Further, the mechanism of their involvement in the lung injury appears to be different, with the stromelysin 1-deficient mice having a reduction in the numbers of neutrophils recruited into the lung whereas the gelatinase B-deficient mice had the same numbers of lung neutrophils as did the injured WT controls. These studies indicate, first, that both gelatinase B and stromelysin 1 are involved in the development of experimental acute lung injury, and second, that the mechanisms by which these individual MMPs function appear to differ.