The interaction between metal ions and the oral environment is a major subject matter in dental research. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been implicated in several pathological and physiological processes such as, periodontal tissue destruction, root caries, dentin calcification and pulpal inflammation. The aim of this work was to test the effect of zinc released from zinc oxide-eugenol (ZOE) cements, on the activity of the major pulpal gelatinolytic MMPs. Pulpal explants were cultured overnight in Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium and the activity of secreted enzymes was analysed by gelatin zymography in buffer conditioned with diverse ZOE cements. Phenanthroline, a zinc chelator, was used to revert the inhibition of MMPs caused by zinc. The major gelatinolytic proteinases present in the conditioned media were characterized as MMP-2 and MMP-9 by immunoprecipitation. All ZOE cements inhibited MMPs activity, whereas phenanthroline could partially revert the inhibition caused by plain ZOE and Intermediate Restorative Material (IRM).