Once thought to mainly act in brain to remodel the extracellular matrix, the family of metalloproteinases is important in many normal and pathological processes in the nervous system. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and A disintegrin and metalloproteinases (ADAMs) are the two major families of metalloproteinases in the brain. MMPs are comprised of several related enzymes that act on extracellular molecules. Normally, they are important in angiogenesis and neurogenesis in development. In neuroinflammatory illnesses, they disrupt the basal lamina and tight junction proteins to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB). ADAMs are important in neuroinflammation through activation of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and their action as secretases that modulate the action of receptors on the cell surface. Four tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are the main inhibitors of the MMPs and ADAMs. Recently, MMPs were found to affect DNA repair processes by an unexpected intranuclear action. MMPs and ADAMs have been implicated in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular cognitive impairment. Growing literature on the functions of MMPs and ADAMs in the central nervous system is opening up new and exciting areas of research that may lead to novel approaches to treatment of neurological diseases.
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