Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) comprise a large family of zinc-dependent endopeptidases, which are best known for their ability to degrade essentially all components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). By breaking down ECM, MMPs may remove physical barriers, thus allowing cells to migrate and potentially invade other tissues. Recent evidence, however, shows that the proteolytic activities of MMPs also affect several fundamental physiological processes. Primary human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells often show constitutive release of several MMPs and chemokines, and there seems to be a crosstalk between the MMP system and the chemokine network. Firstly, the nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) system represents a common regulator at the transcriptional level both for MMPs (e.g. MMP-1 and MMP-9) and for the constitutive release of several chemokines (CCL2-4/CXCL1/8) by primary human AML cells. Secondly, the crosstalk at the molecular level probably includes MMP-mediated structural alteration and activation of constitutively released chemokines involved in AML cell migration (e.g. CXCL12) and stimulation of bone marrow angiogenesis (e.g. CXCL8). Thirdly, at a functional level the two systems interact because the chemokine network plays a role in similar physiological processes as the MMPs, including AML cell proliferation and migration and local regulation of angiogenesis. Both the chemokine system and MMPs are currently being evaluated as targets in anti-angiogenesis/cancer therapy and may also have potential therapeutic implications in AML. This review introduces the different members of the MMP family and describes their interactions with the chemokine network and the possible involvement of MMPs together with chemokines in leukemogenesis and chemosensitivity in AML.