In addition to the ability of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) to degrade components of the extracellular matrix and their involvement in pathology-related processes of tissue remodeling, they were recently reported to enhance inflammation by activation of proinflammatory cytokines, or their release from the cell surface. In the work reported here, proteolytic activity previously found for hydatid cysts was further characterized as MMP-9. Active host MMP-9 was found in walls and fluids of bovine hydatid cysts of Echinococcus granulosus in the environment of granulomatous reaction. Pooled walls and fluids of hydatid cysts obtained from infected cattle were processed. Strong proteolytic activity was detected by zymography. The proteolytic fraction was purified by anion exchange and gelatin-agarose affinity chromatography. Major proteinases of the purified fraction were subjected to mass spectrometry and their identities were further confirmed by Western blotting using commercial anti-human MMP-9 monoclonal antibodies. Two proteinases were characterized as latent and active forms of host MMP-9. Using the same antibody for immunoblot, activity was localized, in paraffin-embedded sections of the parasite and the local host environment, to epithelioid and giant multinucleated cells. It is proposed here that MMP-9 is secreted by specialized host cells of monocytic lineage (epithelioid/giant cells) as an effector, in an attempt to digest the persistent foreign body. In vivo activation of MMP-9 suggests its involvement in inflammatory reaction and in the chemotaxis of inflammatory cells to the cyst. However, E. granulosus can deal efficiently with MMP-9. Research is suggested into possible immune evasion mechanisms, including the secretion of an inhibitory molecule.