To better understand the role of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in cartilage development, we adenovirally expressed a constitutively active (ca) or a dominant negative (dn) form of lymphoid enhancer factor-1 (LEF-1), the main nuclear effector of the pathway, in undifferentiated mesenchymal cells, chondrogenic cells, and primary chondrocytes, and examined the expression of markers for chondrogenic differentiation and hypertrophy. caLEF-1 and LiCl, an activator of the canonical pathway, promoted both chondrogenic differentiation and hypertrophy, whereas dnLEF-1 and the gene silencing of beta-catenin suppressed LiCl-promoted effects. To investigate whether these effects were dependent on Sox9, a master regulator of cartilage development, we stimulated Sox9-deficient ES cells with the pathway. caLEF-1 and LiCl promoted both chondrogenic differentiation and hypertrophy in wild-type, but not in Sox9-deficient, cells. The response of Sox9-deficient cells was restored by the adenoviral expression of Sox9. Thus, the canonical Wnt signaling pathway promotes chondrocyte differentiation in a Sox9-dependent manner.