The aberrant expression of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is implicated in the invasion and angiogenesis process of brain tumor. This study has investigated the effects of curcumin on MMP-9 expression in human astroglioma cell lines. Curcumin significantly inhibited the MMP-9 enzymatic activity and protein expression that was induced by PMA. The inhibitory effect of curcumin on MMP-9 expression correlates with the decreased MMP-9 mRNA level and the suppression of MMP-9 promoter activity. The curcumin-mediated inhibition of MMP-9 gene expression appears to occur via NF-kappaB and AP-1 because their DNA binding activities were suppressed by curcumin. Furthermore, curcumin strongly repressed the PMA-induced phosphorylation of ERK, JNK, and p38 MAP kinase, which were dependent on the PKC pathway. Therefore, the inhibition of MMP-9 expression by curcumin might have therapeutic potential for controlling the growth and invasiveness of brain tumor.