Muscle atrophy commonly occurs as a consequence of prolonged muscle inactivity, as observed after cast immobilization, bed rest or space flights. The molecular mechanisms responsible for muscle atrophy are still unknown, but a role has been proposed for altered permeability of the sarcolemma and of the surrounding connective tissue. Matrix metallo-proteinases (MMPs) are a family of enzymes with proteolytic activity toward a number of extracellular matrix (ECM) components; they are inhibited by tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs). In a rat tail-suspension experimental model, we show that after fourteen days of non-weight bearing there is increased expression of MMP-2 in the atrophic soleus and gastrocnemius and decreased expression of TIMP-2. In the same experimental model the expression of Collagen I and Collagen IV, two main ECM components present in the muscles, was reduced and unevenly distributed in unloaded animals. The difference was more evident in the soleus than in the gastrocnemius muscle. This suggests that muscle disuse induces a proteolytic imbalance, which could be responsible for the breakdown of basal lamina structures such as Collagen I and Collagen IV, and that this leads to an altered permeability with consequent atrophy. In conclusion, an MMP-2/TIMP-2 imbalance could have a role in the mechanism underlying muscle disuse atrophy; more studies are needed to expand our molecular knowledge on this issue and to explore the possibility of targeting the proteolytic imbalance with MMP inhibitors.