The multiligand receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) mediates certain chronic vascular and neurologic degenerative diseases accompanied by low-grade inflammation. RAGE ligands include S100/calgranulins, a class of low-molecular-mass, calcium-binding polypeptides, several of which are chondrocyte expressed. Here, we tested the hypothesis that S100A11 and RAGE signaling modulate osteoarthritis (OA) pathogenesis by regulating a shift in chondrocyte differentiation to hypertrophy. We analyzed human cartilages and cultured human articular chondrocytes, and used recombinant human S100A11, soluble RAGE, and previously characterized RAGE-specific blocking Abs. Normal human knee cartilages demonstrated constitutive RAGE and S100A11 expression, and RAGE and S100A11 expression were up-regulated in OA cartilages studied by immunohistochemistry. CXCL8 and TNF-alpha induced S100A11 expression and release in cultured chondrocytes. Moreover, S100A11 induced cell size increase and expression of type X collagen consistent with chondrocyte hypertrophy in vitro. CXCL8-induced, IL-8-induced, and TNF-alpha-induced but not retinoic acid-induced chondrocyte hypertrophy were suppressed by treatment with soluble RAGE or RAGE-specific blocking Abs. Last, via transfection of dominant-negative RAGE and dominant-negative MAPK kinase 3, we demonstrated that S100A11-induced chondrocyte type X collagen expression was dependent on RAGE-mediated p38 MAPK pathway activation. We conclude that up-regulated chondrocyte expression of the RAGE ligand S100A11 in OA cartilage, and RAGE signaling through the p38 MAPK pathway, promote inflammation-associated chondrocyte hypertrophy. RAGE signaling thereby has the potential to contribute to the progression of OA.