Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) is a central component of the response to injury in the heart. During ischemia, MMP-2 influences ventricular performance and is a determinant of postinfarction remodeling. Elevation of MMP-2 during reperfusion after ischemia suggests that new protein is synthesized, but the molecular regulation of MMP-2 generation during ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury has not been studied. Using the MMP-2 promoter linked to a beta-galactosidase reporter in transgenic mice, we investigated the transcriptional regulation and cellular sources of MMP-2 in isolated, perfused mouse hearts subjected to acute global I/R injury. I/R injury induced a rapid activation of MMP-2 promoter activity with the appearance of beta-galactosidase antigen in cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells. Activation of intrinsic MMP-2 transcription and translation was confirmed by real-time PCR and quantitative Western blot analyses. MMP-2 transcription and translation were inhibited by perfusion with 1.0 mM hydroxyl radical scavenger N-(-2-mercaptopropionyl)-glycine. Nuclear extracts demonstrated increased abundance of two activator proteins-1 (AP-1) components JunB and FosB following I/R injury. Immunohistochemical staining localized JunB and FosB proteins to the nuclei of all three cardiac cell types following I/R injury, consistent with enhanced nuclear transport of these transcription factors. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) of the AP-1 binding site in the intrinsic murine MMP-2 promoter yielded only JunB under control conditions, whereas ChIP following I/R injury recovered both JunB and FosB, consistent with a change in occupancy from JunB homodimers in controls to JunB/FosB heterodimers following I/R injury. We conclude that enhanced MMP-2 transcription and translation following I/R injury are mediated by induction, via oxidant stress, of discrete AP-1 transcription factor components.