Transgenic mice were generated that expressed a human collagenase transgene in their lungs under the direction of the haptoglobin promoter. Histological analysis demonstrated disruption of the alveolar walls and coalescence of the alveolar spaces with no evidence of fibrosis or inflammation. This pathology is strikingly similar to the morphological changes observed in human emphysema and therefore implicates interstitial collagenase as a possible etiological agent in the disease process. Although elastase has been proposed as the primary enzyme responsible for emphysematous lung damage, this study provides evidence that other extracellular matrix proteases could play a role in emphysema. In addition, these transgenic mice are a defined genetic animal model system to study the pathogenesis of emphysema.