We demonstrated previously that local, intra-articular injection of an adenoviral vector expressing human tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in a rabbit knee model of inflammatory arthritis stimulated synovial apoptosis and reduced inflammation. To examine whether intra-articular injection of recombinant chimeric human TRAIL protein (rTRAIL) also induces apoptosis of proliferating rabbit synovium and reduces inflammation, we used an experimental rabbit arthritis model of rheumatoid arthritis, induced by intra-articular introduction of allogeneic fibroblasts genetically engineered to secrete human IL-1beta. Analysis of synovium isolated from the rabbits treated with intra-articular injection of rTRAIL, relative to saline control, showed areas of extensive acellular debris and large fibrous regions devoid of intact cells, similar to adenoviral mediated TRAIL gene transfer. Extensive apoptosis of the synovial lining was demonstrated using TUNEL analysis of the sections, corresponding to the microscopic findings in hematoxylin and eosin staining. In addition, leukocyte infiltration into the synovial fluid of the inflamed knee joints following rTRAIL treatment was reduced more than 50% compared with the saline control. Analysis of the glycosaminoglycan synthetic rate by cultured cartilage using radiolabeled sulfur and cartilage histology demonstrated that rTRAIL did not adversely affect cartilage metabolism and structure. Analysis of serum alanine aminotransferase showed that intra-articular injection of rTRAIL did not have adverse effects on hepatic function. These results demonstrate that intra-articular injection of rTRAIL could be therapeutic for treating pathologies associated with rheumatoid arthritis.