The aim of this study was to examine the effects of intraarticular administration of hyaluronan (HA) on cartilage degradation. Using a partial menisectomy model of osteoarthritis (OA) in the rabbit knee, the authors investigated the catabolic and anabolic changes induced by intraarticular injection of HA. To analyze anabolic changes, the authors assessed cell proliferation by measuring [3H] thymidine uptake, and proteoglycan biosynthesis by noting [35S] sulfate incorporation. For catabolic changes, messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression of interstitial collagenase (MMP-1), stromelysin-1 (MMP-3), and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) in cartilage and synovium were detected with reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Of significance for blocking the development of early OA in chondrocytes was the finding that total proteoglycan synthesis in the HA treatment group was significantly higher than in the controls. At the mRNA level in cartilage and synovium, HA inhibited MMP-3 and TIMP-1 production in the same way in the HA treatment group, while not affecting MMP-1 production. Thus it can be concluded that HA affects cartilage catabolism and anabolism to prevent the progress of OA.