This study addresses mechanisms by which interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) regulates human chondrocyte apoptosis induced by a combination of the anti-CD95 antibody CH-11 and the proteasome inhibitor (PSI). The effect of IL-1beta on apoptosis varied among tissue samples. IL-1beta either enhanced (16/22 samples) or inhibited (6/22 samples) DNA fragmentation and caspase-3 processing. The protective effect of IL-1beta was abrogated by the nitric oxide (NO) synthesis inhibitor N-monomethyl-l-arginine (L-NMMA) while apoptosis stimulation was not affected. The NO-donors sodium nitroprusside (SNP) and S-nitroso-N-acetyl penicillamine (SNAP) blocked DNA fragmentation, and this was associated with partial inhibition of caspase-3 processing. Pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), a scavenger of reactive oxygen species (ROS) blocked apoptosis induction by CH-11/PSI as well as the enhancement by IL-1beta. The pro-apoptotic effects of IL-1beta were also abrogated by the p38 inhibitor SB 202190. In conclusion, IL-1beta augments CH-11/PSI induced apoptosis in the majority of chondrocyte samples. The pro-apoptotic effect of IL-1beta is not dependent on NO. In contrast, the anti-apoptotic effect of IL-1beta observed in a minority of samples is partially NO-dependent.