To profile the messenger RNA (mRNA) expression for the 23 known genes of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), 19 genes of ADAMTS, 4 genes of tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), and ADAM genes 8, 10, 12, and 17 in normal, painful, and ruptured Achilles tendons. Tendon samples were obtained from cadavers or from patients undergoing surgical procedures to treat chronic painful tendinopathy or ruptured tendon. Total RNA was extracted and mRNA expression was analyzed by quantitative real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction, normalized to 18S ribosomal RNA. In comparing expression of all genes, the normal, painful, and ruptured Achilles tendon groups each had a distinct mRNA expression signature. Three mRNA were not detected and 14 showed no significant difference in expression levels between the groups. Statistically significant (P < 0.05) differences in mRNA expression, when adjusted for age, included lower levels of MMPs 3 and 10 and TIMP-3 and higher levels of ADAM-12 and MMP-23 in painful compared with normal tendons, and lower levels of MMPs 3 and 7 and TIMPs 2, 3, and 4 and higher levels of ADAMs 8 and 12, MMPs 1, 9, 19, and 25, and TIMP-1 in ruptured compared with normal tendons. The distinct mRNA profile of each tendon group suggests differences in extracellular proteolytic activity, which would affect the production and remodeling of the tendon extracellular matrix. Some proteolytic activities are implicated in the maintenance of normal tendon, while chronically painful tendons and ruptured tendons are shown to be distinct groups. These data will provide a foundation for further study of the role and activity of many of these enzymes that underlie the pathologic processes in the tendon.