Glucose serves as the major energy substrate and the main precursor for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans in chondrocytes. Facilitated glucose transport represents the first rate-limiting step in glucose metabolism. This study examines molecular regulation of facilitated glucose transport in normal human articular chondrocytes by proinflammatory cytokines. IL-1beta and TNF-alpha, and to a lesser degree IL-6, accelerate facilitated glucose transport as measured by [(3)H]2-deoxyglucose uptake. IL-1beta induces an increased expression of glucose transporter (GLUT) 1 mRNA and protein, and GLUT9 mRNA. GLUT3 and GLUT8 mRNA are constitutively expressed in chondrocytes and are not regulated by IL-1beta. GLUT2 and GLUT4 mRNA are not detected in chondrocytes. IL-1beta stimulates GLUT1 protein glycosylation and plasma membrane incorporation. IL-1beta regulation of glucose transport in chondrocytes depends on protein kinase C and p38 signal transduction pathways, and does not require phosphoinositide 3-kinase, extracellular signal-related kinase, or c-Jun N-terminal kinase activation. IL-1beta-accelerated glucose transport in chondrocytes is not mediated by endogenous NO or eicosanoids. These results demonstrate that stimulation of glucose transport represents a component of the chondrocyte response to IL-1beta. Two classes of GLUTs are identified in chondrocytes, constitutively expressed GLUT3 and GLUT8, and the inducible GLUT1 and GLUT9.