Mouse mast cell protease (mMCP)-6-null C57BL/6 mice lost less aggrecan proteoglycan from the extracellular matrix of their articular cartilage during inflammatory arthritis than wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 mice, suggesting that this mast cell (MC)-specific mouse tryptase plays prominent roles in articular cartilage catabolism.We used ex vivo mouse femoral head explants to determine how mMCP-6 and its human ortholog hTryptase-b mediate aggrecanolysis. Exposure of the explants to recombinant hTryptase-b, recombinant mMCP-6, or lysates harvested from WT mouse peritoneal MCs (PMCs) significantly increased the levels of enzymatically active matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) in cartilage and significantly induced aggrecan loss into the conditioned media, relative to replicate explants exposed to medium alone or lysates collected from mMCP-6-null PMCs. Treatment of cartilage explants with tetramer-forming tryptases generated aggrecan fragments that contained C-terminal DIPEN and N-terminal FFGVG neoepitopes, consistent with MMP-dependent aggrecanolysis. In support of these data, hTryptase-b was unable to induce aggrecan release from the femoral head explants obtained from Chloe mice that resist MMP cleavage at the DIPEN?FFGVG site in the interglobular domain of aggrecan. In addition, the abilities of mMCP-6-containing lysates from WT PMCs to induce aggrecanolysis were prevented by inhibitors of MMP-3 and MMP-13. Finally, recombinant hTryptase-b was able to activate latent pro-MMP-3 and pro-MMP-13 in vitro. The accumulated data suggest that human and mouse tetramer-forming tryptases are MMP convertases that mediate cartilage damage and the proteolytic loss of aggrecan proteoglycans in arthritis, in part, by activating the zymogen forms of MMP-3 and MMP-13, which are constitutively present in articular cartilage.