Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several central nervous system (CNS) diseases. In this study, we investigated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes antigens and detected the expression of MMP-9 and MMP-7 in the brains of 22 sheep with clinical signs and histopathological findings characteristic of listerial meningoencephalitis. Archived sections from the brainstem, cerebrum, and cerebellum were stained for immunohistochemistry. L. monocytogenes antigens were located mainly in the cytoplasm of neutrophils and some macrophages and/or extracellularly within microabscesses of the brainstem. MMP-9 was mainly immunolocalised in the endothelial cells, microglial cells, and neurons especially in inflammatory areas. MMP-7 immunoreactivity was detected in perivascular cuffs, microglial cells, and only a few neurons. Overall, immunohistochemistry in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues is a useful tool for the diagnosis of encephalitic listeriosis caused by L. monocytogenes, and MMP-9 and MMP-7 may contribute to the pathogenesis of listerial meningoencephalitis. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.