Proteomics encompasses powerful techniques termed 'degradomics' for unbiased high-throughput protease substrate discovery screens that have been applied to an important family of extracellular proteases, the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Together with the data generated from genetic deletion and transgenic mouse models and genomic profiling, these screens can uncover the diverse range of MMP functions, reveal which MMPs and MMP-mediated pathways exacerbate pathology, and which are involved in protection and the resolution of disease. This information can be used to identify and validate candidate drug targets and antitargets, and is critical for the development of new inhibitors of MMP function. Such inhibitors may target either the MMP directly in a specific manner or pathways upstream and downstream of MMP activity that are mediating deleterious effects in disease. Since MMPs do not operate alone but are part of the 'protease web', it is necessary to use system-wide approaches to understand MMP proteolysis in vivo, to discover new biological roles and their potential for therapeutic modification.