Airway remodelling is a feature of chronic asthma comprising smooth muscle hypertrophy and deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) breakdown ECM, are involved in tissue remodelling and have been implicated in airway remodelling. Although mesenchymal cells are an important source of MMPs, little data are available on airway smooth muscle (ASM) derived MMPs. We therefore investigated MMP and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) production and activity in human ASM cells. MMPs and TIMPs were examined using quantitative real-time RT-PCR, Western blotting, zymography and a quench fluorescence (QF) assay of total MMP activity. The most abundant MMPs were pro-MMP-2, pro- MMP-3, active MMP-3 and MT1-MMP. TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 expression was low in cell lysates but high in conditioned medium. High TIMP secretion was confirmed by the ability of ASM-conditioned medium to inhibit recombinant MMP-2 in a QF assay. Thrombin increased MMP activity by activation of pro-MMP-2 independent of the conventional smooth muscle thrombin receptors PAR 1 and 4. In conclusion, ASM cells express pro-MMP-2, pro and active MMP-3, MMP-9 and MT1-MMP. Unstimulated cells secrete excess TIMP 1 and 2, preventing proteolytic activity. MMP-2 can be activated by thrombin which may contribute to airway remodelling.