The immunohistochemical expression of 72-kDa type IV collagenase [matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP)-21], basement membrane component type IV collagen and proliferation-related antigen Ki 67 were investigated in 43 benign, borderline, and malignant serous tumors of the ovary. The results were compared with the histotypes of ovarian serous tumors and with their clinical behavior. Serum evaluation of MMP-2 was performed in 14 patients with cystadenocarcinoma and the data compared with that of a control group. The basement membrane (BM) was continuous in benign cystadenomas and in some borderline tumors, whereas it was discontinuous or absent in other borderline tumors, in borderline tumors with microinvasion, and cystadenocarcinomas. The percentage of MMP-2- and Ki 67-expressing cells increased from cystadenomas to borderline tumors, being the highest in malignant tumors; a frequent basal disposition of the MMP-2 cytoplasmic granules also was observed in cystadenocarcinomas. Statistical analysis demonstrated that MMP-2 expression was inversely related to BM integrity. Serum MMP-2 values did not differ from that of the control group. Cox regression analysis showed that tumor stage and grade were significant prognostic factors, whereas MMP-2 and Ki 67 immunohistochemical expression added no further significant information to the prognosis. The investigators conclude that the correlation between increasing MMP-2 expression and BM alteration gives support to the hypothesis of a direct role of the metalloproteinase in the process of destructive stromal invasion. MMP-2, type IV collagen, and Ki 67 immunodetection varied according to the histologic classification of ovarian serous tumors. However, neither these factors nor the serum evaluation of MMP-2 appear useful as prognostic predictors in this series.