ABSTRACT Objective: To evaluate the structural and molecular changes in the extracellular matrix (ECM) during the process of intervertebral disc degeneration, using animal model. Methods: Wistar rats underwent intervertebral disc degeneration through 20-gauge needle puncture, and 360° rotation applied for 30 sec, representing the degenerated group, while control group was not submitted to this procedure. Histological parameters and expression of extracellular matrix molecules were evaluated in the 15th and 28th days after degenerative induction. Results: Fifteen days after the induction of intervertebral disc degeneration, significant changes were observed, such as reduction in the expression metalloprotease-9 (MMP9) and interleukins (IL-6 and IL-10). There was a significant increase in the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and caspase-3. However, different alterations in the ECM were observed at 28 days, the level of collagen I, metalloprotease-2 (MMP2) and caspase-3 were enhanced. Furthermore, expression of heparanase isoforms (HPSE1 and HPSE2) mRNA were increased in the degenerative intervertebral disc. Conclusion: The different profiles of ECM molecules observed during the intervertebral disc degeneration suggest that molecular processes such as ECM remodeling, neovascularization, apoptosis and inflammation occur. Experimental Study.