We examined whether apigenin affects the gene expression, secretion and activity of matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) in primary cultured rabbit articular chondrocytes, as well as in vivo production of MMP-3 in the knee joint of rat to evaluate the potential chondroprotective effects of apigenin. Rabbit articular chondrocytes were cultured in a monolayer, and reverse transcription - polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to measure interleukin-
)-induced expression of MMP-3, MMP-1, MMP-13, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs-4 (ADAMTS-4), and ADAMTS-5. In rabbit articular chondrocytes, the effects of apigenin on IL-
-induced secretion and proteolytic activity of MMP-3 were investigated using western blot analysis and casein zymography, respectively. The effect of apigenin on MMP-3 protein production was also examined in vivo. In rabbit articular chondrocytes, apigenin inhibited the gene expression of MMP-3, MMP-1, MMP-13, ADAMTS-4, and ADAMTS-5. Furthermore, apigenin inhibited the secretion and proteolytic activity of MMP-3 in vitro, and inhibited production of MMP-3 protein in vivo. These results suggest that apigenin can regulate the gene expression, secretion, and activity of MMP-3, by directly acting on articular chondrocytes.