BACKGROUND: Fetal lung maturation occurs after both maternal corticosteroid administration and chorioamnionitis. The effectors of this antenatally-induced lung maturation are not understood. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) 2 and 9 are type-IV collagenases that can degrade alveolar basement membranes. OBJECTIVES: We hypothesized that the structural changes of lung maturation by both antenatal corticosteroid treatment and chorioamnionitis would be associated with increases in these MMPs. METHODS: 64 pregnant ewes were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: intra-amniotic injection of 10 mg endotoxin, maternal intramuscular injection of 0.5 mg/kg betamethasone, both treatments combined or saline-treated controls. We quantified MMP-2 which is derived from connective tissue and MMP-9 which is predominantly derived from neutrophils in fetal lung fluid of lambs after maternal corticosteroid therapy and induction of chorioamnionitis and the combination of both therapies given at 109-111 days gestational age with delivery 1, 5 or 15 days later. RESULTS: Betamethasone, endotoxin and the combined treatments increased both surfactant pool size, lung gas volume and reduced alveolar wall thickness at 15 days. MMP-2 concentration was increased after betamethasone. MMP-9 concentration increased after endotoxin-induced chorioamnionitis but decreased by the combined treatments. CONCLUSION: Lung maturation via different pathways may use different forms of collagenases for remodelling lung structure.