Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are involved in the regulation of extracellular matrix turnover and tissue remodeling, through which they can influence the infiltration of a graft by immune-competent cells. Little is known about their role in islet allograft rejection. Therefore we investigated the expression of several MMPs and of two of their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) in rat pancreatic islets. MMP and TIMP expression in isolated rat pancreatic islets was assessed by reverse transcriptase - polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) from total RNA. Several MMPs of different substrate specificities were found to be expressed in rat pancreatic islets, either shortly after islet isolation and in all conditions tested (MMP-9, TIMP-1) or after a lag time (MMP-2, MMP-3, MMP-14, TIMP-2). Fetal calf serum induced MMP-7 expression. The inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1P (IL-1p) did not induce MMP or TIMP expression. We showed that rat pancreatic islets are well equipped with MMPs and TIMPs, but the functional meaning of this expression remains to be elucidated. On the basis of the known effects on tissue remodeling and cytokine processing, we anticipate that they can influence islet engraftment and viability and participate to islet graft rejection.