PURPOSE. In juvenile tree shrews, a minus-power lens placed in front of the eye produces increased axial elongation and a myopic shift in refractive state that compensates for the power of the lens. Scleral tissue remodeling and modulation of the mechanical properties of the sclera occur during lens compensation. In this study, the time course of changes in scleral mRNA levels of three MMPs and three TIMPs during compensation for a minus lens and during recovery was investigated, to determine which, if any, are temporally associated with changes in the mechanical properties of the sclera and the axial elongation rate. METHODS. Competitive RT-PCR was used to measure the levels of mRNA for MT1-MMP, MMP-2, MMP-3, TIMP-1, TIMP-2, and TIMP-3 in the scleras of tree shrews that had received either 1, 2, 4, or 11 days of monocular -5-D lens treatment, or 11 days of -5-D lens treatment followed by 2 or 4 days of recovery. RESULTS. Relative to their control eyes, treated eye MT1-MMP and MMP-2 mRNA levels were significantly higher, and TIMP-3 levels were lower by 1 to 4 days of minus lens treatment. These differential effects were absent by 11 days of treatment when the treated eyes had compensated for the lens. The levels of all three TIMPs spiked upward in both eyes after 2 days of recovery. The differential changes in MT1-MMP, MMP-2, and TIMP-3 mRNA levels were all restricted to the treated eye and were temporally associated with the differential changes in axial elongation, refractive state, and the previously measured changes in creep rate. CONCLUSIONS. The observed changes in MT1-MMP, MMP-2, TIMP-2, and TIMP-3 mRNA are consistent with visually modulated MT1-MMP activation of MMP-2 and with MT1-MMP degradation of scleral extracellular matrix components. These data constitute further evidence that visual signals modulate gene expression of selected MMPs and TIMPs to control scleral remodeling, the mechanical properties of the sclera, axial elongation, and refractive state. Copyright © Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.