Protein expression patterns of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) were examined in mouse reproductive organs during estrous cycle. Estrous cycle was classified into diestrus, proestrus, estrus or metestus and MMP expression was analyzed by zymography using gelatin as a substrate. Uterine fluid (UF) obtained both at diestrus and proestrus exhibited 4 major MMPs including 106kDa, 64kDa, 62kDa and 59kDa gelatinases. However, in UF at estrus, the gelatinolytic activity of 64kDa MMP disappeared and that of 106kDa and 62kDa MMPs dramatically decreased. At metestrus, 64kDa MMP activity reappeared and 106kDa and 62kDa MMP exhibited increased activities such that the band intensity of 106kDa was comparable to that in UF at diestrus. Gelatinolytic activity of 59kDa MMP was not changed throughout the cycle. Both ovarian and oviductal tissue homogenate revealed 4 MMPs which corresponded to the 4 MMPs of UF. However, unlike UF MMPs, gelatinolytic activity of these MMPs did not show distinct changes throughout the cycle. Either an inhibitor of MMP, 1, 10-phenanthroline, or a metal chelator, EDTA, abolished the appearance of the above MMP activities in gelatinated gel whereas a serine proteinase inhibitor, phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride, failed to inhibit the appearance of MMP activities, proving that gelatinolytic activity of the above reproductive tissues were due to the enzymatic activity of MMP. When gelatinolytic activity of mouse serum was examined, it revealed 5 MMPs (131kDa, 106kDa, 89kDa, 64kDa and 62kDa bands) and one gelatinase (84kDa) band. From these results, it is concluded that the protein expression of MMPs of mouse reproductive organs, particularly uterus, is temporally regulated during estrous cycle and uterine 106kDa, 64kDa and 62kDa MMP,3 are suggested to play an important role in cyclic tissue remodeling of mouse uterus.