The aetiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is complex. While cigarette smoking is a well-established cause of COPD, a myriad of assessed genetic factors has given conflicting data. Since gene-environment interactions are thought to be implicated in aetiopathogenesis of COPD, we aimed to examine the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 9 C–1562T (rs3918242) functional variant and cigarette smoke in the pathogenesis of this disease. The distribution of the MMP9 C–1562T variant was analyzed in COPD patients and controls with normal pulmonary function from Serbia. Interaction between the C–1562T genetic variant and cigarette smoking was assessed using a case-control model. The response of the C–1562T promoter variant to cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) exposure was examined using a dual luciferase reporter assay. The frequency of T allele carriers was higher in the COPD group than in smoker controls (38.4% vs. 20%; OR = 2.7, P = 0.027). Interaction between the T allele and cigarette smoking was identified in COPD occurrence (OR = 4.38, P = 0.005) and severity (P = 0.001). A functional analysis of the C–1562T variant demonstrated a dose-dependent and allele-specific response (P < 0.01) to CSC. Significantly higher MMP9 promoter activity following CSC exposure was found for the promoter harboring the T allele compared to the promoter harboring the C allele (P < 0.05). Our study is the first to reveal an interaction between the MMP9–1562T allele and cigarette smoke in COPD, emphasising gene-environment interactions as a possible cause of lung damage in the pathogenesis of COPD. Environ. Mol. Mutagen. 57:447–454, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.