Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) degrade extracellular matrix and are implicated in causing airway damage in chronic inflammatory lung diseases, including cystic fibrosis (CF). Our primary objective was to examine the relationship between matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and pulmonary function, as measured by forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1), in children with CF. We measured MMP-9 and its natural tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) in induced sputum from 18 clinically stable CF children with normal to mildly abnormal lung function and 7 healthy control children. Measures of airway inflammation from induced sputum included cell counts and differentials, interleukin-8 (IL-8), neutrophil elastase, MMP-9, and TIMP-1. Infection was assessed through quantitative bacterial counts. Induced sputum levels of MMP-9 and TIMP-1 were significantly increased in children with CF compared with healthy controls. Also, the MMP-9/TIMP-1 molar ratio was higher in the CF group. Among CF children, there was a significant inverse relationship between MMP-9 and FEV1. In addition, sputum MMP-9 and TIMP-1 concentrations significantly correlated with total white cells and neutrophils, IL-8, and neutrophil elastase. Neither MMP-9 nor TIMP-1 correlated with airway infection. We conclude that clinically stable CF children with normal to mildly abnormal lung function have an increased burden of MMP-9 in their airways. The observed relationships of MMP-9 with lung function and other measures of airway inflammation suggest that this enzyme may be a useful marker of airway injury and airflow obstruction in persons with CF.