The tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP-1) belongs to a family of multifunctional proteins that inhibit matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), but also regulate cell growth, proliferation, migration and apoptosis in non-nervous tissues. We had previously reported that kainate (KA)-mediated excitotoxic seizures induce the expression of TIMP-1 in resistant neurons and reactive astrocytes of the rat CNS, but the functional implications of these changes had not been elucidated. In the present work we used a targeted gene null mutation in mice to investigate in vivo the involvement of TIMP-1 in neuronal death and axonal sprouting following KA. We found no differences in seizure behaviour between the wild-type (WT) and the TIMP-1 knock-out (KO) mice, without any compensation by other TIMPs, at least at the mRNA level. However, the TIMP-1 KO mice were resistant to excitotoxicity and did not undergo the typical mossy fibre sprouting observed in WT mice. The lack of TIMP-1 paradoxically hampered the increase in the activity of MMPs observed in the seizing WT mice. In addition, we demonstrate that learning and memory are impaired in untreated KO mice. In conclusion, this study provides the first in vivo evidence for the implication of TIMP-1 in neuronal death and axonal sprouting in a pathological situation, but also suggests the involvement of TIMP-1 in the synaptic mechanisms underlying learning and memory in physiological conditions. More generally, these data support the idea that the control of proteolysis is instrumental for pathological and physiological processes in the brain.