The extracellular matrix plays an important role in breast remodeling. We have shown that matrix metalloprotease-2 (MMP2) cleaves laminin-5 (Ln-5), a basement membrane component, generating a fragment called gamma2x. Human breast epithelial cells, while constitutively immobile on intact Ln-5, acquire a motile phenotype on MMP2-cleaved Ln-5. We hypothesize that this mechanism may underlie cell mobilization across the basement membrane during branching morphogenesis in breast development regulated by sex steroids. We report that the expression of MMP2 and cleavage of Ln-5 correlate well with tissue remodeling and epithelial rearrangement of the breast both in vivo and in vitro. Thus, the Ln-5 gamma2x fragment was detected by immunoblotting in sexually mature, pregnant, and postweaning, but not in prepubertal or lactating mammary glands. Furthermore, cleaved Ln-5, as well as MMP2, became detectable in remodeling glands from sexually immature rats treated with sex steroids. In rat mammary gland explants, epithelial reorganization and luminal cell morphological changes were induced by the addition of exogenous MMP2, in parallel to the appearance of cleaved Ln-5. Similar effects were observed in epithelial monolayers plated on human Ln-5 and exposed to MMP2. These results suggest that cleavage of Ln-5 by MMP2 might be regulated by sex steroids and that it may contribute to breast remodeling under physiological and possibly pathological conditions.