Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of zinc endopeptidases that have been implicated in various disease processes. Different classes of MMP inhibitors, including hydroxamic acids, phosphinic acids and thiols, have been previously described. Most of these mimic peptides and most likely bind in a similar way to the corresponding peptide substrates. Here we describe pyrimidine-triones as a completely new class of metalloprotease inhibitors. While the pyrimidine-trione template is used as the zinc-chelating moiety, the substituents have been optimized to yield inhibitors comparable in their inhibition efficiency of matrix metalloproteinases to hydroxamic acid derivatives such as batimastat. However, they are much more specific for a small subgroup of MMPs, namely the gelatinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9).