To understand whether tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase (TIMPs) contribute to the failure of regenerating sensory axons to enter the spinal cord, we used in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry to examine the expression of TIMP1, TIMP2, and TIMP3 in the dorsal root, dorsal root entry zone (DREZ), and dorsal column after dorsal root injury in adult rats. We found that the three TIMPs and their mRNAs were up-regulated in a time-, region-, and cell-type-specific manner. Strong up-regulation of all three TIMPs was seen in the injured dorsal roots. TIMP2 was also significantly up-regulated in the DREZ and degenerating dorsal column, where TIMP1 and TIMP3 showed only moderate up-regulation. Most cells up-regulating the TIMPs in the DREZ and degenerating dorsal column were reactive astrocytes, but TIMP2 was also up-regulated by microglia/macrophages, especially at long postoperative survival times. These results suggest that TIMPs may be involved in controlling tissue remodelling following dorsal root injury and that manipulation of the expression of TIMPs may provide a means of promoting axonal regeneration into and within the injured spinal cord.