Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are hypothesized to play an important role in the pathogenesis of several central nervous system disorders. Increased levels of expression of MMP-9 (gelatinase B) and MMP-2 (gelatinase A) have been observed in Alzheimer's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This suggests an aberrant regulation of MMPs that could lead to inappropriate expression of MMP activity. To allow us to evaluate the effect of increased levels of active MMP-9 in the central nervous system, mutant forms of the enzyme were designed to autocatalytically remove the pro domain, yielding active enzyme. This was accomplished by modifying residues in the cysteine switch autoinhibitor region of the propeptide. Stable cell lines and transgenic mice that express G100L and D103N autoactive forms of human MMP-9 were developed to study the role of dysregulation of MMP-9 in disease.