Blood-brain barrier (BBB) opening is mediated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in neuroinflammation. We tested the hypothesis that MMP-3 plays a role in BBB damage, using MMP-3 knockout (KO) mice and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced opening of the BBB. We found less disruption of the BBB after intracerebral LPS injection in MMP-3 KO mice than in wild type (P<0.0006). MMP-3 KO mice had less MMP-9 than WT mice but similar levels of activation. Moreover, MMP-9 mRNA levels were increased to a similar level in both the MMP-3 KO and WT, suggesting both endogenous and exogenous sources. Unbiased stereology showed increased neutrophil counts in the brains of MMP-3 WT compared to KO mice. Degradation of tight junction proteins, claudin-5 and occludin, and the basal lamina protein, laminin-alpha1, was less affected in the KO than in the WT. Our results provide the first in vivo evidence that MMP-3 attacks the basal lamina and tight junction proteins, opening the BBB, thereby facilitating neutrophil influx.