The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) constitute a family of multidomain zinc endopeptidases which contain a catalytic domain with a common metzincin-like topology. The MMPs are involved not only in extracellular matrix degradation, but also in a number of other biological processes. Normally, their proteolytic activity is regulated precisely by their main endogenous protein inhibitors, in particular the tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs). Disruption of this balance results in serious diseases, such as arthritis, tumour growth and metastasis, rendering the MMPs attractive targets for inhibition therapy. Knowledge of their tertiary structures is crucial for a full understanding of their functional properties. Since the first publication of atomic MMP structures in 1994, much more structural information has become available on details of the catalytic domain, on its interaction with synthetic and protein inhibitors, on domain organization and on the formation of complexes with other proteins. This review will outline our current knowledge of MMP structure.

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