After injury to the central nervous system, a glial/collagen scar forms at the lesion site, which is thought to act as a physicochemical barrier to regenerating axons. We have shown that scar formation in the transected optic nerve (ON) is attenuated when robust growth of axons is stimulated. Matrix metalloproteases (MMP), modulated by tissue inhibitors of MMP (TIMP), degrade a wide variety of extracellular matrix components (ECM) and may be activated by growing axons to remodel the ECM to allow regeneration through the inhibitory environment of the glial or collagen scar. Here, we investigate whether MMP levels are modulated in a nonregenerating (scarring) versus a regenerating (nonscarring) model of ON injury in vivo. Western blotting and immunohistochemistry revealed that MMP-1, -2, and -9 levels were higher and TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 levels were lower in regenerating compared to nonregenerating ON and retinae. In situ zymography demonstrated significantly greater MMP-related gelatinase activity in the regenerating model, mainly colocalized to astrocytes in the proximal ON stump and around the lesion site. These results suggest that activation of MMP and coincident down-regulation of TIMP may act to attenuate the inhibitory scarring in the regenerating ON, thus transforming the ON into a noninhibitory pathway for axon regrowth.