Local environmental conditions contribute to the activation state of cells. Extracellular matrix glycoproteins participate in cell-cell boundaries within the microvascular and extravascular tissues of the central nervous system and provide a scaffold for the local environment. These conditions are altered during focal cerebral ischemia (and other central nervous system disorders) when extracellular matrix boundaries are degraded or when matrix proteins in the vascular circulation enter the neuropil as the microvascular permeability barrier is degraded. Microglia in the resting state become activated after the onset of ischemia. During activation these cells can express a number of factors and proteases, including latent matrix metalloproteinase-9 (pro–MMP-9). Whereas MMP-9 and MMP-2 are generated early during focal ischemia in select models, their cellular sources in vivo are still under study. In vitro microglia cells activate and respond to exposure to specific matrix proteins (eg, vitronectin, fibronectin) that circulate. Certain MMP inhibitors, specifically tetracycline derivatives, can modulate microglial activation and reduce injury volume in limited studies. But, the injury reduction relies on preinjury exposure to the tetracycline. Other studies underway suggest the hypothesis that microglial cell activation and pro-MMP-9 generation during focal cerebral ischemia is promoted in part by matrix proteins in the circulation that extravasate into the neuropil when the blood-brain barrier is compromised. These matrix proteins are known to activate microglia through their specific cell surface matrix receptors.