Interstitial collagen gives fetal membranes tensile strength, and membrane rupture has been attributed to collagen degradation. A polymorphism at -1607 in the matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) promoter (an insertion of a guanine (G)) creates a core Ets binding site and increases promoter activity. We investigated whether this polymorphism is functionally significant for MMP-1 expression in amnion cells and whether it is associated with preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM). The 2G promoter had >2-fold greater activity than the 1G allele in amnion mesenchymal cells and WISH amnion cells. Phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) increased mesenchymal cell nuclear protein binding with greater affinity to the 2G allele. Induction of MMP-1 mRNA by PMA was significantly greater in cells with a 1G/2G or 2G/2G genotype compared with cells homozygous for the 1G allele. When treated with PMA, the 1G/2G and 2G/2G cells produced greater amounts of MMP-1 protein than 1G/1G cells. A significant association was found between fetal carriage of a 2G allele and PPROM. We conclude that the 2G allele has stronger promoter activity in amnion cells, that it confers increased responsiveness of amnion cells to stimuli that induce MMP-1, and that this polymorphism contributes to the risk of PPROM.