In a nerve crush model of denervation, we examined muscle matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression, localization and activity. In normal muscle, MMP mRNA levels were low, and immunohistochemically MMPs were distributed around the muscle fibre with MMPs-3, -7 and -9 also staining at the neuromuscular junction. Seven days after nerve crush, muscle MMP immunoreactivity, especially MMP-12 and MMP-14, became irregularly distributed. At 20 days reinnervation of the muscle was observed, and some restitution of the normal pattern of immunoreactivity was noted concomitant with a higher level of MMP mRNA expression. In situ zymography showed that MMP activity was very weak in normal muscle whereas it was increased up to 40 days following denervation. Our results suggest that MMPs in muscle are involved in the tissue changes following denervation. Further experiments are required to test the hypothesis that MMP inhibition may be beneficial in protecting muscle from excessive remodelling following denervation and therefore improve reinnervation.