IL-18, a cytokine originally identified as IFN-gamma-inducing factor, is a member of the IL-1 family of proteins. Because IL-1alpha and IL-1beta are important mediators in the pathogenesis of arthritis, the present study addresses the expression of IL-18 and its role in regulating in articular chondrocytes. IL-18 mRNA was induced by IL-1beta in chondrocytes. Chondrocytes produced the IL-18 precursor and in response to IL-1 stimulation secreted the mature form of IL-18. Studies on IL-18 effects on chondrocytes showed that it inhibits TGF-beta-induced proliferation and enhances nitric oxide production. IL-18 stimulated the expression of several genes in normal human articular chondrocytes including inducible nitric oxide synthase, inducible cyclooxygenase, IL-6, and stromelysin. Gene expression was associated with the synthesis of the corresponding proteins. Treatment of normal human articular cartilage with IL-18 increased the release of glycosaminoglycans. These finding identify IL-18 as a cytokine that regulates chondrocyte responses and contributes to cartilage degradation.