Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate in many animal and human trials has improved joint health. In vitro studies are beginning to clarify their mode of action. The objective of this research was to: 1) determine at what concentrations glucosamine-HCl (GLN) and/or chondroitin sulphate (CS) would inhibit the cytokine-induced catabolic response in equine articular cartilage explants and 2) to determine if a combination of the 2 was more effective at inhibiting the catabolic response than the individual compounds. Articular cartilage was obtained from carpal joints of horses (age 1-4 years). Cartilage discs (3.5 mm) were biopsied and cultured. Explants were incubated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the presence of varying concentrations of GLN, CS, or both. Control treatments included explants with no LPS and LPS without GLN or CS. Media were analysed for nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and keratan sulphate. Cartilage was extracted for analysis of metalloproteinases (MMP). Four experiments were conducted. In all experiments, GLN at concentrations as low as 1 mg/ml decreased NO production relative to LPS stimulated cartilage without GLN over the 4 day period. In general, CS at either 0.25 or 0.5 mg/ml did not inhibit NO production. The addition of CS to GLN containing media did not further inhibit NO production. GLN at concentrations as low as 0.5 mg/ml decreased PGE2 production, whereas CS did not effect on PGE2. The combination of GLN/CS decreased MMP-9 gelatinolytic activity but had no effect on MMP-2 activity. The combination in 2 experiments tended to decrease MMP-13 protein concentrations and decreased keratan sulphate levels in media. Overall, the combination of GLN (1 mg/ml) and CS (0.25 mg/ml) inhibited the synthesis of several mediators of cartilage degradation. These results further support the effort to understand the role of GLN and CS in preserving articular cartilage in athletic horses.