Mandibular condylar cartilage acts as both articular and growth plate cartilage during growth, and then becomes articular cartilage after growth is complete. Cartilaginous extracellular matrix is remodeled continuously via a combination of production, degradation by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and inhibition of MMP activity by tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs). This study attempted to clarify the age-related changes in the mRNA expression patterns of MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1, TIMP-2, and TIMP-3 in mandibular condylar cartilage in comparison to tibial growth plate and articular cartilage using an in situ hybridization method in growing and adult rats. MMP-2 and MMP-9 were expressed in a wide range of condylar cartilage cells during growth, and their expression domains became limited to mature chondrocytes in adults. The patterns of TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 expression were similar to those of MMP-2 and MMP-9 during growth, and were maintained until adulthood. TIMP-3 was localized to hypertrophic chondrocytes throughout the growth stage. Therefore, we concluded that TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 were general inhibitors of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in condylar cartilage, while TIMP-3 regulates the collagenolytic degradation of the hypertrophic cartilage matrix.