ADAM (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase) 10 is a key member of the ADAM family of disintegrin and metalloproteinases which process membrane-associated proteins to soluble forms in a process known as 'shedding'. Among the major targets of ADAM10 are Notch, EphrinA2 and CD44. In many cell-based studies of shedding, the activity of ADAM10 appears to overlap with that of ADAM17, which has a similar active-site topology relative to the other proteolytically active ADAMs. The tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases, TIMPs, have proved useful in the study of ADAM function, since TIMP-1 inhibits ADAM10, but not ADAM17; however, both enzymes are inhibited by TIMP-3. In the present study, we show that, in comparison with ADAM17 and the MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases), the N-terminal domains of TIMPs alone are insufficient for the inhibition of ADAM10. This knowledge could form the basis for the design of directed inhibitors against different metalloproteinases.