Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a group of over twenty proteases, operating chiefly extracellularly to cleave components of the extracellular matrix, cell adhesion molecules as well as cytokines and growth factors. By virtue of their expression and activity patterns in animal models and clinical investigations, as well as functional studies with gene knockouts and enzyme inhibitors, MMPs have been demonstrated to play a paramount role in many physiological and pathological processes in the brain. In particular, they have been shown to influence learning and memory processes, as well as major neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, various kinds of addiction, epilepsy, fragile X syndrome, and depression. A possible link connecting all those conditions is either physiological or aberrant synaptic plasticity where some MMPs, e.g., MMP-9, have been demonstrated to contribute to the structural and functional reorganization of excitatory synapses that are located on dendritic spines. Another common theme linking the aforementioned pathological conditions is neuroinflammation and MMPs have also been shown to be important mediators of immune responses.
Keywords: Addiction; Autism; Behavioral training; Epilepsy; Schizophrenia.