Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity is implicated in the degradation of the extracellular matrix during cerebral ischemia. Although many studies have demonstrated spatiotemporal patterns of activation of gelatinases (MMP-9 and MMP-2) after ischemic stroke in young adult rodents, no data exist on MMP activity in old brains. In this study, we investigated the gelatinolytic activity in young adult (3-month-old) and aged (1-year-old) mice subjected to photothrombotic stroke. Using in situ zymography and gel zymography, we found that the basal gelatinolytic activity in the intact cerebral cortex was similar at both investigated ages. Similarly, after photothrombosis, the increased gelatinolytic response up to 7 days poststroke was the same in young and aged brains. At both ages, early activation of gelatinolysis in the ischemic core and the perilesional area was present in neuronal nuclei as revealed by colocalization of gelatinolytic product with NeuN immunostaining and DAPI. Additionally, application of specific antibodies against MMP-9 and MMP-2 revealed the increase in MMP-9 immunoreactivity in cell nuclei as early as 4 hr poststroke. No differences between young and aged mice were observed concerning the level and localization of MMP-9 immunoreactivity. The lack of age-related differences in the degree and pattern of activation of gelatinolysis after focal stroke and the lack of correspondence between the results of in situ and gel zymography suggest that extracellular proteolysis is not directly responsible for the more severe outcome of ischemic stroke in aged subjects. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.