The function of ancillary domains and modules attatched to the catalytic domain of mutidomain proteases, such as the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), are not well understood. The importance of discrete MMP substrate binding sites termed exosites on domains located outside the catalytic domain was first demonstrated for native collagenolysis. The essential role of hemopexin carboxyl-domain exosites in the cleavage of noncollagenous substrates such as chemokines has also been recently revealed. This article updates a previous review of the role of substrate recognition by MMP exosites in both preparing complex substrates, such as collagen, for cleavage and for tethering noncollagenous substrates to MMPs for more efficient proteolysis. Exosite domain interaction and movements--"molecular tectonics"--that are required for native collagen triple helicase activity are discussed. The potential role of collagen binding in regulating MMP-2 (gelatinase A) activation at the cell surface reveals unexpected consequences of substrate interactions that can lead to collagen cleavage and regulation of the activation and activity of downstream proteinases necessary to complete the collagenolytic cascade.