Postoperative acute lung injury (ALI) contributes to the morbidity and mortality following cardiopulmonary by-pass (CPB). To determine whether the presence of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) is associated with ALI after CPB, MMP-2 and MMP-9 activities in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) were compared with parameters indicating impaired gas exchange. In a prospective study, 17 minipigs were subjected to CPB for 60 min. Before and at five and 180 min after CPB, MMP-2 and MMP-9 were assayed in BALF and the arterial-alveolar gradient of oxygen tension (AaDOP2), the pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP) and the water content of lung tissue samples (Wt) were evaluated and compared with baseline values. MMP-2 and MMP-9 increased significantly 5 minutes (2.1- and 6.2-fold, respectively) and 180 minutes (3.4- and 14.3-fold, respectively) post-CPB. AaDO2 and Wt, but not PCWP, increased significantly 180 minutes after CPB and only AaDO2, but not PCWP or Wt, was significantly correlated with MMP-2 (r=0.66, p=0.006) and MMP-9 (r=0.62, p=0.01). In conclusion, high levels of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in the pulmonary compartment are associated with ALI after CPB.