Glucosamine inhibits recombinant human interleukin-1 stimulated cartilage degradation in equine cartilage explants. Recently, recombinant equine interleukin-1 has been cloned and purified. Therefore, the objective of this study was to characterise the effects of glucosamine on indices of cartilage degradation in recombinant equine IL-1beta-stimulated equine articular cartilage explants. Cartilage discs were harvested from the weight-bearing region of the articular surface of the antebrachiocarpal and middle carpal joints of horses (age 2-8 years) and cultured under standard conditions. Explants were exposed to recombinant equine interleukin-1beta (reIL-1beta) on Days 1-4 in the presence or absence of glucosamine (0.25, 2.5 or 25 mg/ml), with appropriate controls. Nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, sulphated proteoglycan, stromelysin and gelatinase/collagenase activity released into conditioned media and total tissue proteoglycan content were measured as indicators of cartilage catabolism. Glucosamine inhibited cartilage catabolic responses in a dose dependent manner that was statistically significant at a dose of 0.25 mg/ml for stromelysin activity and 2.5 mg/ml for collagenase/gelatinase activity. At 25 mg/ml glucosamine also prevented IL-1beta-induced increases in nitric oxide production, prostaglandin E2 and proteoglycan release to media. Glucosamine prevents equine articular cartilage degradation experimentally induced by reIL-1beta in vitro. These data provide further support for the use of glucosamine in treatment or prevention of cartilage loss in athletic horses.