Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are endopeptidases that cleave matrix, soluble and membrane-bound proteins and are regulated by their endogenous inhibitors the tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs). Nothing is known about MMP/TIMP trafficking and secretion in neuronal cells. We focussed our attention on the gelatinases MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their inhibitor TIMP-1. MMPs and TIMP-1 fused to GFP were expressed in N2a neuroblastoma and primary neuronal cells to study trafficking and secretion using real time video-microscopy, imaging, electron microscopy and biochemical approaches. We show that MMPs and TIMP-1 are secreted in 160-200 nm vesicles in a Golgi-dependent pathway. These vesicles distribute along microtubules and microfilaments, co-localise differentially with the molecular motors kinesin and myosin Va and undergo both anterograde and retrograde trafficking. MMP-9 retrograde transport involves the dynein/dynactin molecular motor. In hippocampal neurons, MMP-2 and MMP-9 vesicles are preferentially distributed in the somato-dendritic compartment and are found in dendritic spines. Non-transfected hippocampal neurons also demonstrate vesicular secretion of MMP-2 in both its pro- and active forms and gelatinolytic activity localised within dendritic spines. Our results show differential trafficking of MMP and TIMP-1-containing vesicles in neuronal cells and suggest that these vesicles could play a role in neuronal and synaptic plasticity.