Abstract Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) cooperatively degrade all components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Remodeling of ECM during skeletal muscle degeneration and regeneration suggests a tight regulation of matrix-degrading activity during muscle regeneration. In this study, we investigated the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, in normal muscles and their regulation during regeneration process. We further investigated their secretion by C2C12 myogenic cell line. Two models of muscle degeneration–regeneration were used: (1) normal muscles in which necrosis was experimentally induced by cardiotoxin injection; (2) mdxmuscles which exhibit recurrent signs of focal myofiber necrosis followed by successful regeneration. MMPs were studied by zymography; their free activity was quantified using 3H-labeled gelatin substrate and mRNA expression was followed by Northern hybridization. Muscle degeneration–regeneration was analyzed by conventional morphological methods and in situhybridization was performed on muscle sections to identify the cells expressing these MMPs. Results show that MMP-2, but not MMP-9 expression, is constitutive in normal muscles. Upon injury, the active form of MMP-2 is transiently increased, whereas MMP-9 is induced within 24 h and remains present for several days. Quantitative assays of free gelatinolytic activity show a progressive and steady increase that culminates at 7 days postinjury and slowly returns to normal levels. In adult mdxmice, both pro and active forms of MMP-2 and MMP-9 are expressed. Northern blot results support these findings. Zymography of C2C12-conditioned medium shows that myogenic cells produce MMP-2. By in situhybridization we localized MMP-9 mRNA in inflammatory cells and putative activated satellite cells in injured muscles. Our data allow the correlation of the differential expression of pro and/or active forms of MMP-2 and MMP-9 with different stages of the degeneration–regeneration process: MMP-9 expression is related to the inflammatory response and probably to the activation of satellite cells, whereas MMP-2 activation is concomitant with the regeneration of new myofibers.