Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a class of zinc-dependent endopeptidases that are highly conserved across numerous taxa, from bacteria to humans. Recently, MMPs have been identified in several insect species and are hypothesized to function in immunity and development. In this study, we identify a putative MMP and correlate its proteolytic activity and gene and protein expression in the tracheae with developmental stage. Ms-MMP gene expression increases 10-fold during molting, which is accompanied by an increase in both protein expression and gelatinolytic activity. To directly test the hypothesis that Ms-MMP plays a critical role in juvenile development of Manduca sexta, we injected a broad-spectrum MMP inhibitor and recorded its effects on growth and development. Inhibition of MMPs caused a delay in juvenile development and decreased growth rates. Understanding the function of MMPs will help us better understand molting and control of body size in insects. Furthermore, elucidating functions for MMPs in lower taxa may yield critical information about the evolution of the numerous MMPs found in vertebrates. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 320B:105–117, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.