A striking feature of pulmonary infection with the Gram-negative intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis, a category A biological threat agent, is an intense accumulation of inflammatory cells, particularly neutrophils and macrophages, at sites of bacterial replication. Given the essential role played by host matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in modulating leukocyte recruitment and the potentially indiscriminate destructive capacity of these cells, we investigated whether MMP-9, an important member of this protease family released by neutrophils and activated macrophages, plays a role in the pathogenesis of respiratory tularemia. We found that F. tularensis induced expression of MMP-9 in FVB/NJ mice and that the action of this protease is associated with higher bacterial burdens in pulmonary and extrapulmonary tissues, development of more extensive histopathology predominated by neutrophils, and increased morbidity and mortality compared with mice lacking MMP-9 (MMP-9-/-). Moreover, MMP-9-/- mice were able to resolve infection with either the virulence-attenuated type B (live vaccine strain) or the highly virulent type A (SchuS4) strain of F. tularensis. Disease resolution was accompanied by diminished leukocyte recruitment and reductions in both bacterial burden and proinflammatory cytokine production. Notably, neutrophilic infiltrates were significantly reduced in MMP-9-/- mice, owing perhaps to limited release of Pro-Gly-Pro, a potent neutrophil chemotactic tripeptide released from extracellular matrix through the action of MMP-9. Collectively, these results suggest that MMP-9 activity plays a central role in modulating the clinical course and severity of respiratory tularemia and identifies MMPs as novel targets for therapeutic intervention as a means of modulating neutrophil recruitment. Copyright © 2007 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.