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To examine whether circulating levels of matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) were associated with ultrasound-assessed intima-media thickness (IMT) and echolucent plaques in the carotid and femoral arteries. To examine preanalytical sources of variability in MMP-9 concentrations related to sampling procedures.Plasma and serum MMP-9 levels were compared with ultrasound assessed measures of femoral and carotid atherosclerosis, in a cross-sectional study of 61-year-old men (n = 473). Preanalytical sources of variability in MMP-9 levels were examined in 10 healthy subjects. Main outcome measures were circulating levels of MMP-9 in serum and plasma, IMT of the carotid and femoral arteries, and plaque status based on size and echolucency.Research unit at university hospital.Plasma concentrations of total and active MMP-9 were associated with femoral artery IMT independently of traditional cardiovascular risk factors, and were higher in subjects with moderate to large femoral plaques. Plasma MMP-9 concentration was higher in men with echolucent femoral plaques (P = 0.006) compared with subjects without femoral plaques. No similar associations were found for carotid plaques. MMP-9 concentrations were higher in serum than in plasma, and higher when sampling was performed with Vacutainer than with syringe. MMP-9 levels in serum were more strongly associated with peripheral neutrophil count compared with MMP-9 levels in plasma.Plasma MMP-9 levels were associated with atherosclerosis in the femoral artery, and total MMP-9 concentration was higher in men with echolucent femoral plaques. The choice of sample material and sampling method affect the measurements of circulating MMP-9 levels.