Background: Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are known to be endogenous inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Our preliminary study showed that TIMP-2 is constitutively expressed in microglia but significantly inhibited by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatment. The current study was undertaken to investigate the role of TIMP-2 in microglia.Methods: The expression of TIMP-2 was evaluated in the BV2 mouse microglial cell line and rat primary cultured microglia. To investigate the role of TIMP-2, a TIMP-2 expression plasmid or small interfering RNA (siRNA) was introduced into BV2 cells by transient transfection, and their effects on LPS-induced inflammatory reactions were examined. We further analyzed the molecular mechanism underlying the anti-inflammatory effects of TIMP-2 by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), a reporter gene assay and Western blot analysis.Results: Overexpression of TIMP-2 significantly inhibited the production of nitric oxide (NO), TNF-α, IL-1β, and reactive oxygen species (ROS), while increasing anti-inflammatory IL-10 production. On the other hand, knockdown of TIMP-2 augmented the production of pro-inflammatory molecules and downregulated IL-10 in LPS-stimulated BV2 cells. The results suggest that endogenously expressed TIMP-2 plays an anti-inflammatory role. Further mechanistic studies revealed that overexpression of TIMP-2 suppresses microglial activation via inhibition of the activity of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and NF-κB with enhancement of the activity of anti-inflammatory Nrf2 and cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) transcription factors. TIMP-2 also inhibited the activity and expression of LPS-induced MMP-3, -8, and -9. Finally, we demonstrated that TIMP-2 exerts a neuroprotective effect via the inhibition of microglial activation.Conclusions: Enhancement of TIMP-2 expression may be a potential therapeutic target for neuroinflammatory disorders.