Introduction: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are zinc-dependent endopeptidases capable of degrading extracellular matrix, including the basement membrane. MMPs are associated with various physiological processes such as morphogenesis, angiogenesis, and tissue repair. Moreover, due to the novel non-matrix related intra- and extracellular targets of MMPs, dysregulation of MMP activity has been implicated in a number of acute and chronic pathological processes, such as arthritis, acute myocardial infarction, chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inflammation, and cancer metastasis. MMPs are considered as viable drug targets in the therapy of the above diseases.
Methods: For the development of selective MMP inhibitor molecules, reliable methods are necessary for target validation and lead development. Here, we discuss the major methods used for MMP assays, focusing on substrate zymography. We highlight some problems frequently encountered during sample preparations, electrophoresis, and data analysis of zymograms.
Results and discussion: Zymography is a widely used technique to study extracellular matrix-degrading enzymes, such as MMPs, from tissue extracts, cell cultures, serum or urine. This simple and sensitive technique identifies MMPs by the degradation of their substrate and by their molecular weight and therefore helps to understand the widespread role of MMPs in different pathologies and cellular pathways.
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