Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) such as gelatinases are believed to play an important role in invasion and metastasis of cancer. In this study we investigated the possible role of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in an experimental model of colon cancer metastasis in rat liver. We demonstrated with gelatin zymography that the tumors contained MMP-2 and MMP-9, but only MMP-2 was present in the active form. Immunolocalization of MMP-2 showed that the protein was localized at basement membranes of colon cancer cells and in intratumor stroma, associated with extracellular matrix (ECM) components. However, zymography and immunohistochemistry (IHC) do not provide information on the localization of MMP activity. Therefore, we developed an in situ zymography technique using the quenched fluorogenic substrate DQ-gelatin in unfixed cryostat sections. The application of DQ-gelatin in combination with a gelled medium allows precise localization of gelatinolytic activity. Fluorescence due to gelatinolytic activity was found in the ECM of tumors and was localized similarly to both MMP-2 protein and collagen type IV, its natural substrate. The localization of MMP-2 activity and collagen type IV at similar sites suggests a role of MMP-2 in remodeling of ECM of stroma in colon cancer metastases in rat liver.