Osteoarthritis is primarily characterized by areas of destruction of articular cartilage and by synovitis. Articular damage and synovitis are secondary to local increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha), enzymes with proteolytic activity (matrix metalloproteinases), and enzymes with pro-inflammatory activity (cyclooxygenase-2 and nitric oxide synthase-2). Enhanced expression of these proteins in chondrocytes and in synovial membrane appears associated to the activation and nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB). Chondroitin sulfate (CS) prevents joint space narrowing and reduces joint swelling and effusion. To produce these effects, CS elicits an anti-inflammatory effect at the chondral and synovial levels. CS and its disaccharides reduce NF-kappaB nuclear translocation, probably by diminishing extracellular signal-regulated kinase1/2, p38mitogen-activated protein kinase and c-Jun N-terminal kinase activation. This review discusses the evidence supporting that CS pleiotropic effects in chondrocytes and synoviocytes are primarily due to a common mechanism, e.g., the inhibition of NF-kappaB nuclear translocation.