Aims/hypothesis: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their natural inhibitors, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), regulate important biological processes including the homeostasis of the extracellular matrix, proteolysis of cell surface proteins, proteinase zymogen activation, angiogenesis and inflammation. Studies have shown that their balance is altered in retinal microvascular tissues in diabetes. Since LDLs modified by oxidation/glycation are implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic vascular complications, we examined the effects of modified LDL on the gene expression and protein production of MMPs and TIMPs in retinal pericytes. Methods: Quiescent human retinal pericytes were exposed to native LDL (N-LDL), glycated LDL (G-LDL) and heavily oxidised and glycated LDL (HOG-LDL) for 24 h. We studied the expression of the genes encoding MMPs and TIMPs mRNAs by analysis of microarray data and quantitative PCR, and protein levels by immunoblotting and ELISA. Results: Microarray analysis showed that MMP1, MMP2, MMP11, MMP14 and MMP25 and TIMP1, TIMP2, TIMP3 and TIMP4 were expressed in pericytes. Of these, only TIMP3 mRNA showed altered regulation, being expressed at significantly lower levels in response to HOG- vs N-LDL. Quantitative PCR and immunoblotting of cell/matrix proteins confirmed the reduction in TIMP3 mRNA and protein in response to HOG-LDL. In contrast to cellular TIMP3 protein, analysis of secreted TIMP1, TIMP2, MMP1 and collagenase activity indicated no changes in their production in response to modified LDL. Combined treatment with N- and HOG-LDL restored TIMP3 mRNA expression to a level comparable with that after N-LDL alone. Conclusions/interpretation: Among the genes encoding for MMPs and TIMPs expressed in retinal pericytes, TIMP3 is uniquely regulated by HOG-LDL. Reduced TIMP3 expression might contribute to microvascular abnormalities in diabetic retinopathy. © 2007 Springer-Verlag.