Members of the astacin family of metalloproteinases such as human bone morphogenetic protein 1 (BMP-1) have previously been linked to cell differentiation and pattern formation during development through a proposed role in the activation of latent growth factors of the TGF-beta superfamily. Recent findings indicate that BMP-1 is identical to pro-collagen C-proteinase, which is a metalloproteinase involved in extracellular matrix (ECM) formation. This observation suggests that a functional link may exist between astacin metalloproteinases, growth factors and cell differentiation and pattern formation during development. Taken together, current studies indicate that BMP-1 and possibly other astacin metalloproteinases are multifunctional enzymes that act directly on growth factors and the ECM. In combination, these dual actions would have profound effects on developmental processes.