BACKGROUND: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) belong to the zinc endopeptidase subgroup of the metalloproteinase superfamily and are primarily involved in extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. Alterations of the mesangial ECM in AL-amyloidosis (AL-Am) and light chain deposition disease (LCDD) are crucial in their pathogeneses as two divergent entities. METHODS: Protein expression patterns of five MMPs (MMP-1, 2, 3, 7, and 9) in renal tissues obtained from autopsies and kidney biopsies, and cultured human mesangial cells (HMCs) treated with light chains obtained from the urines of patients with AL-Am and LCDD were analyzed. MMP mRNA expressions were determined in glomeruli following laser capture microdissection and selective MMP microarray. Zymography was used to assess MMP activity. RESULTS: The average glomerular MMP expression was 6 times greater in AL-Am than LCDD and negative control renal tissues with different expression profiles: MMP-1, 7 > 9 > 3 > 2, MMP-1 > 2, 9 > 3 > 7, and MMP-2, 3, 7 > 9 > 1, respectively. Microdissected glomeruli and HMCs treated with light chains expressed higher levels of MMP mRNA and proteins in AL-Am than LCDD. Zymography was used to assess activity demonstrating increased MMP-2 in AL-Am. CONCLUSION: Altered expressions of MMPs play a key role in the pathogenesis of AL-Am and LCDD. MMPs were more highly expressed in AL-Am compared to LCDD.