Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are implicated in multiple sclerosis where one of their roles may be to facilitate the transmigration of circulating leukocytes into the CNS. Studies have focused on only a few MMPs, and much remains unknown of which of the 23 MMP family members is/are critical to the multiple sclerosis disease process. Using quantitative real time polymerase chain reactions, we have systematically analysed the expression of all 23 MMP members in subsets of leukocytes isolated from the blood of normal individuals. We found a distinctive pattern of MMP expression in different cellular populations: MMP-11, MMP-26 and MMP-27 were enriched in B cells, while MMP-15, MMP-16, MMP-24 and MMP-28 were prominent in T lymphocytes. Of interest is the enrichment of a majority of MMP members in monocytes: MMP-1, MMP-3, MMP-9, MMP-10, MMP-14, MMP-19 and MMP-25. MMP-2 and MMP-17 were also significantly represented in monocytes, although B cells had significant amounts of these MMPs. In correspondence with their strong expression of many MMP members, monocytes migrated more rapidly across a model of the blood-brain barrier in culture than T or B lymphocytes. Finally, we found higher levels of two of the monocyte-expressed MMPs in multiple sclerosis patients compared with normal individuals: MMP-2 and MMP-14. Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP)-2 was also elevated in monocytes from multiple sclerosis patients, providing a mechanism for the reported activation of MMP-2 by MMP-14 and TIMP-2. These results emphasize that monocytes are prominent contributors of the neuroinflammation in multiple sclerosis through a mechanism that involves their high MMP expression and that they identify specific MMP members as targets for novel therapeutics in the disease.