During osteogenesis, in vitro, of tibial-derived rat osteoblasts (ROB) and derived clones, changes occur in the interactions of mature osteoblasts with the endogenous extracellular matrix (ECM) and these culminate in the formation of tridimensional nodules, which become sites of mineral deposition. We investigated if these changes might be mediated by remodeling of ECM, and we focused our study on the neutral metalloproteinases (MMPs), known agents of matrix remodeling, and on their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs). We report that during in vitro differentiation, osteoblasts express the secreted MMP-2 and −9 and the membrane gelatinase MMP-14. These, along with the tissue inhibitors TIMP-1 and −2, are developmentally regulated according to the maturation stage of osteoblasts. Their levels change in a similar association with osteoblast phenotypic maturation in different populations of ROB, which take different times to complete osteogenesis in vitro. MMP-14 expression coincides in both cell populations with the mature osteoblastic phenotype and is localized in the cells forming nodules. MMP-2 and −9 are expressed diffusely in the osteoblast population. Developmentally associated changes in the activation of MMP-2 are detected, associated in their timing with the expression of MMP-14 in both populations of ROB, and MMP-14 activates pro-MMP-2 in vitro. Expression of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) for the three MMPs increases up to the time of nodule formation. At this stage, TIMP-1 mRNA levels are lowest. TIMP-2 mRNA decreases throughout osteogenesis. In situ hybridization in 7-day-old rat tibias shows the strongest expression of MMP-14 among osteogenic cells, in lining osteoblasts on the newly formed trabeculae under the growth plate, and on the endosteal surface of cortical bone. Our data support the concept that the developmentally regulated expression of MMP-14 triggers localized proteolysis within the osteogenic population, concomitant in vitro to nodule formation.