Previous work has shown that integrin alpha1-null Alport mice exhibit attenuated glomerular disease with decreased matrix accumulation and live much longer than strain-matched Alport mice. However, the mechanism underlying this observation is unknown. Here we show that glomerular gelatinase expression, specifically matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), MMP-9, and MMP-14, was significantly elevated in both integrin alpha1-null mice and integrin alpha1-null Alport mice relative to wild-type mice; however, only MMP-9 was elevated in glomeruli of Alport mice that express integrin alpha1. Similarly, cultured mesangial cells from alpha1-null mice showed elevated expression levels of all three MMPs, whereas mesangial cells from Alport mice show elevated expression levels of only MMP-9. In both glomeruli and cultured mesangial cells isolated from integrin alpha1-null mice, activation of the p38 and ERK branches of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway was also observed. The use of small molecule inhibitors demonstrated that the activation of the p38, but not ERK, pathway was linked to elevated MMP-2, -9, and -14 expression levels in mesangial cells from integrin alpha1-null mice. In contrast, elevated MMP-9 levels in mesangial cells from Alport mice were linked to ERK pathway activation. Blockade of gelatinase activity using a small molecule inhibitor (BAY-12-9566) ameliorated progression of proteinuria and restored the architecture of the glomerular basement membrane in alpha1 integrin-null Alport mice, suggesting that elevated gelatinase activity exacerbates glomerular disease progression in these mice.