Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), synthesized as a 631 amino-acid proenzyme, is activated by cleavage of the first 80 amino acids and naturally inhibited by tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-2 (TIMP-2). We report here the production of MAbs against MMP-2 and TIMP-2 and their use in localizing the respective antigens on tumor tissues. The anti-MMP-2 MAb recognized the latent and activated MMP-2 mutant protein (mutein) with C-terminal deletion at amino acid 425, indicating that both N- and C-terminal amino acids of MMP-2 are not important for its binding. The binding study of anti-TIMP-2 MAb, using several C-terminally truncated TIMP-2 muteins, showed that the amino acids 111-126 of TIMP-2 are essential for the binding of this antibody. Besides their respective antigens, both MAbs also recognized the MMP-2/TIMP-2 complex. On frozen sections of breast tumor, anti-MMP-2 MAb stained mainly tumor-cell cytoplasm with varying intensity, while anti-TIMP-2 MAb gave a stromal staining of varying intensity and a weak or absent staining of tumor-cell cytoplasm, suggesting different localization of the proteins in these tumors. In addition, in 1/3 of the breast cases both antibodies also localized on tumor-cell membranes. Similar cytoplasmic and stromal but not membrane staining patterns were observed in colon, gastric, endometrial, squamous-cell, prostatic and ovarian carcinoma as well. Since MMP-2 degrades type-IV collagen, the major component of basement membranes, the differences between MMP-2 and TIMP-2 levels and localization in individual tumors may relate to the invasiveness of the tumor and thus provide predictive information. However, this aspect could not be discussed in this study because no biological and clinical parameters such as lymph-node involvement or Dukes' stage of the tumors were available.