With each estrous or menstrual cycle, extensive alterations occur in the extracellular matrix and connective tissue of the ovary and uterus. In the ovary, these changes occur during follicular development, breakdown of the follicular wall and extrusion of the oocyte, as well as during the formation and regression of the corpus luteum. In the uterus, the endometrium undergoes dramatic connective tissue turnover associated with tissue breakdown and subsequent regrowth during each menstrual cycle. These changes in the ovarian and uterine extracellular architecture are regulated, in part, by the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) system. This system is comprised of both a proteolytic component, the MMPs, and associated inhibitors, and it is involved in connective tissue remodeling processes throughout the body. The current review highlights the key features of the MMP system and focuses on the changes in the MMPs and the tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases during the dynamic remodeling that takes place in the ovary and uterus during the estrous and menstrual cycles.
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