The myocardial extracellular matrix (ECM), an interwoven meshwork of proteins, glycoproteins, proteoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans that is dominated by polymeric fibrils of type I collagen, serves as the mechanical scaffold on which myocytes are arrayed for coordinated and synergistic force transduction. Following ischemic injury, cardiac ECM remodeling is initiated via localized proteolysis, the bulk of which has been assigned to matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family members. Nevertheless, the key effector(s) of myocardial type I collagenolysis both in vitro and in vivo have remained unidentified. In this study, using cardiac explants from mice deficient in each of the major type I collagenolytic MMPs, including MMP-13, MMP-8, MMP-2, MMP-9, or MT1-MMP, we identify the membrane-anchored MMP, MT1-MMP, as the dominant collagenase that is operative within myocardial tissues in vitro. Extending these observations to an in vivo setting, mice heterozygous for an MT1-MMP-null allele display a distinct survival advantage and retain myocardial function relative to wild-type littermates in an experimental model of myocardial infarction, effects associated with preservation of the myocardial type I collagen network as a consequence of the decreased collagenolytic potential of cardiac fibroblasts. This study identifies MT1-MMP as a key MMP responsible for effecting postinfarction cardiac ECM remodeling and cardiac dysfunction.