Neuroscientist 2002 Dec;8(6):586-95
Department of Neurology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are extracellular matrix remodeling neutral proteases that are important in normal development, angiogenesis, wound repair, and a wide range of pathological processes.
Growing evidence supports a key role of the MMPs in many neuroinflammatory conditions, including meningitis, encephalitis, brain tumors, cerebral ischemia, Guillain-Barre, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
The MMPs attack the basal lamina macromolecules that line the blood vessels, opening the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
They contribute to the remodeling of the blood vessels that causes hyalinosis and gliosis, and they attack myelin.
During the acute inflammatory phase of MS, they are involved in the injury to the blood vessels and may be important in the disruption of the myelin sheath and axons.
Normally under tight regulation, excessive proteolytic activity is detected in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid in patients with acute MS.
Because they are induced in immunologic and nonimmunologic forms of demyelination, they act as a final common pathway to exert a "bystander" effect.
Agents that block the action of the MMPs have been shown to reduce the damage to the BBB and lead to symptomatic improvement in several animal models of neuroinflammatory diseases, including experimental allergic encephalomyelitis.
Such agents may eventually be useful in the control of excessive proteolysis that contributes to the pathology of MS and other neuroinflammatory conditions.