Articular cartilage chondrocytes have the unique ability to elaborate large amounts of extracellular pyrophosphate (PPi), and transforming growth factor beta (TGF beta) appears singular among cartilage regulatory factors in stimulating PPi production. TGF beta caused a time and dose-dependent increase in intracellular and extracellular PPi in human articular chondrocyte cultures. TGF beta and interleukin 1 beta (IL-1 beta) antagonistically regulate certain chondrocyte functions. IL-1 beta profoundly inhibited basal and TGF beta-induced PPi elaboration. To address mechanisms involved with the regulation of PPi synthesis by IL-1 beta and TGF beta, we analyzed the activity of the PPi-generating enzyme NTP pyrophosphohydrolase (NTPPPH) and the PPi-hydrolyzing enzyme alkaline phosphatase. Human chondrocyte NTPPPH activity was largely attributable to plasma cell membrane glycoprotein 1, PC-1. Furthermore, TGF beta induced comparable increases in the activity of extracellular PPi, intracellular PPi, and cellular NTPPPH and in the levels of PC-1 protein and mRNA in chondrocytes as well as a decrease in alkaline phosphatase. All of these TGF beta-induced responses were completely blocked by IL-1 beta. Thus, IL-1 beta may be an important regulator of mineralization in chondrocytes by inhibiting TGF beta-induced PPi production and PC-1 expression.