The ADAMTS (A Disintegrin and Metalloproteinase with Thrombospondin motifs) enzymes are secreted, multi-domain matrix-associated zinc metalloendopeptidases that have diverse roles in tissue morphogenesis and patho-physiological remodeling, in inflammation and in vascular biology. The human family includes 19 members that can be sub-grouped on the basis of their known substrates, namely the aggrecanases or proteoglycanases (ADAMTS1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 15 and 20), the procollagen N-propeptidases (ADAMTS2, 3 and 14), the cartilage oligomeric matrix protein-cleaving enzymes (ADAMTS7 and 12), the von-Willebrand Factor proteinase (ADAMTS13) and a group of orphan enzymes (ADAMTS6, 10, 16, 17, 18 and 19). Control of the structure and function of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is a central theme of the biology of the ADAMTS, as exemplified by the actions of the procollagen-N-propeptidases in collagen fibril assembly and of the aggrecanases in the cleavage or modification of ECM proteoglycans. Defects in certain family members give rise to inherited genetic disorders, while the aberrant expression or function of others is associated with arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. In particular, ADAMTS4 and 5 have emerged as therapeutic targets in arthritis. Multiple ADAMTSs from different sub-groupings exert either positive or negative effects on tumorigenesis and metastasis, with both metalloproteinase-dependent and -independent actions known to occur. The basic ADAMTS structure comprises a metalloproteinase catalytic domain and a carboxy-terminal ancillary domain, the latter determining substrate specificity and the localization of the protease and its interaction partners; ancillary domains probably also have independent biological functions. Focusing primarily on the aggrecanases and proteoglycanases, this review provides a perspective on the evolution of the ADAMTS family, their links with developmental and disease mechanisms, and key questions for the future.