The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of at least 14 zinc-dependent enzymes which are known to degrade the protein components of extracellular matrix. In addition, MMPs and related enzymes can also process a number of cell surface cytokines, receptors, and other soluble proteins. In particular we have shown that the release of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, from its membrane-bound precursor is an MMP-dependent process. MMPs are expressed by the inflammatory cells which are associated with CNS lesions in animal models of multiple sclerosis (MS) and in tissue from patients with the disease. MMP expression will contribute to the tissue destruction and inflammation in MS. Drugs which inhibit MMP activity are effective in animal models of MS and may prove to be useful therapies in the clinic.