Lupus nephritis is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in systemic lupus erythematosus, but little is known about the pathogenic processes that underlie the progressive decay in renal function. A common finding in lupus nephritis is thickening of glomerular basement membranes associated with immune complex deposition. It has been speculated that alterations in the synthesis or degradation of membrane components might contribute to such changes, and thereby to initiation and progression of nephritis through facilitation of immune complex deposition. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are enzymes that are intimately involved in the turnover of major glomerular basement membrane constituents, including collagen IV and laminins. Alterations in the expression and activity of MMPs have been described in a number of renal diseases, suggesting their relevance to the pathogenesis of various glomerulopathies. The same is true for their natural inhibitors, the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase family. Recent data from our group have identified an increase in proteolytic activity within the glomerulus coinciding with the development of proteinuria in the mouse model of systemic lupus erythematosus. (NXB x NZW)F1 Here we review current understanding of MMP/tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase function within the kidney, and discuss their possible involvement in the development and progression of lupus nephritis.