We have previously demonstrated that the asthma-associated proinflammatory eicosanoid leukotriene D4 (LTD4) is comitogenic with insulin-like growth factors (IGF) in airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells. This synergistic effect of LTD4 and IGF on ASM cell growth involves proteolysis of ASM-produced inhibitory IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP). In this report, we analyzed the conditioned media (CM) from LTD4-treated human ASM cells (ASM-LTD4-CM) by Western ligand blotting and demonstrated a marked LTD4-induced reduction in the levels of the intact IGFBP (predominantly IGFBP-2) secreted by these cells. The IGFBP-2 in the ASM-LTD4-CM was identified as lower-molecular-weight fragments by Western immunoblotting. Incubation with 125I-labeled IGFBP demonstrated that an IGFBP protease was induced in the ASM cells in response to LTD4 treatment. Immunodepletion of ASM-LTD4-CM with anti-matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 antibodies demonstrated a dose-dependent reduction of IGFBP proteolysis. Tissue inhibitor of MMP-1 and Batimastat (synthetic) inhibited proteolysis of IGFBP. Immunoblotting the ASM-LTD4-CM with anti-MMP-1 demonstrated a dose-dependent increase in MMP-1 protein. Similar results were also obtained by immunocytochemistry. Collectively, these observations demonstrate that MMP-1 is an IGFBP protease induced by leukotrienes that plays a significant role in modulating IGF action in ASM cells. A similar mechanism may be applicable in vivo in the airways of patients with asthma.