Inflammatory joint diseases are characterized by enhanced extracellular matrix degradation which is predominantly mediated by cytokine-stimulated upregulation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression. Besides tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), Interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) produced by articular chondrocytes and synovial macrophages, is the most important cytokine stimulating MMP expression under inflammatory conditions. Blockade of these two cytokines and their downstream effectors are suitable molecular targets of antirheumatic therapy. Hox alpha is a novel stinging nettle (Urtica dioica/Urtica urens) leaf extract used for treatment of rheumatic diseases. The aim of the present study was to clarify the effects of Hox alpha and the monosubstance 13-HOTrE (13-Hydroxyoctadecatrienic acid) on the expression of matrix metalloproteinase-1, -3 and -9 proteins (MMP-1, -3, -9). Human chondrocytes were cultured on collagen type-II-coated petri dishes, exposed to IL-1beta and treated with or without Hox alpha and 13-HOTrE. A close analysis by immunofluorescence microscopy and western blot analysis showed that Hox alpha and 13-HOTrE significantly suppressed IL-1beta-induced expression of matrix metalloproteinase-1, -3 and -9 proteins on the chondrocytes in vitro. The potential of Hox alpha and 13-HOTrE to suppress the expression of matrix metalloproteinases may explain the clinical efficacy of stinging nettle leaf extracts in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. These results suggest that the monosubstance 13-HOTrE is one of the more active antiinflammatory substances in Hox alpha and that Hox alpha may be a promising remedy for therapy of inflammatory joint diseases.