We investigated the specific role of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 in allergic asthma using a murine model of allergen-induced airway inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness in MMP-9(-/-) mice and their corresponding wild-type (WT) littermates. After a single intraperitoneal sensitization to ovalbumin, the mice were exposed daily either to ovalbumin (1%) or phosphate-buffered saline aerosols from days 14 to 21. Significantly less peribronchial mononuclear cell infiltration of the airways and less lymphocytes in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were detected in challenged MMP-9(-/-) as compared to WT mice. In contrast, comparable numbers of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid eosinophils were observed in both genotypes. After allergen exposure, the WT mice developed a significant airway hyperresponsiveness to carbachol whereas the MMP-9(-/-) mice failed to do so. Allergen exposure induced an increase of MMP-9-related gelatinolytic activity in WT lung extracts. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction showed increased mRNA levels of MMP-12, MMP-14, and urokinase-type plasminogen activator after allergen exposure in the lung extracts of WT mice but not in MMP-9-deficient mice. In contrast, the expression of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 was enhanced after allergen exposure in both groups. We conclude that MMP-9 plays a key role in the development of airway inflammation after allergen exposure.