Recent work has established that IL-1beta plays a central role in the inflammation and connective tissue destruction observed in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. These processes result from the ability of this inflammatory cytokine to activate expression of genes for neutral proteases, such as the matrix metalloproteinases. While IL-1beta activates matrix metalloproteinase genes within several hours, it also activates immediate early genes, which are required for the later expression of matrix metalloproteinases and other arthritis-perpetuating genes, are also activated. To identify putative immediate early genes involved in IL-1beta-mediated arthritic disease, a chondrocytic cell line (SW1353) was stimulated with this cytokine for 2 hours, total RNA was isolated, and expressed genes were identified by microarray analysis. This analysis identified alterations in the expression of multiple transcription factors, cytokines, growth factors and their receptors, adhesion molecules, proteases, and signaling intermediates that may contribute to inflammation and cartilage destruction in arthritis. Interestingly, confirmation of the expression of activating protein-1 family members by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction revealed a preferential increase in junB, a known transcriptional antagonist of c-jun. The failure to observe induction of early growth response gene-1, which was detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction to be substantially and transiently induced by 1 hour of IL-1 treatment, may be explained by the known instability of the message after early induction. However, this analysis has identified numerous IL-1beta-responsive genes that warrant further investigation as mediators of disease in arthritis.