The in-vitro effects of avocado and soybean unsaponifiable residues on neutral metalloproteinase activity, cytokines and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production by human articular chondrocytes were investigated. Avocado and soybean unsaponifiable residues were mixed in three ratios: 1:2 (A1S2), 2:1 (A2S1) or 1:1 (A2S2). Freshly isolated human chondrocytes were cultured for 72 h in the absence or presence of interleukin-1beta, (IL-1beta) (17 ng/ml), with or without unsaponifiable residue mixtures at a concentration of 10 microg/ml. A/S unsaponifiable residues were also tested separately at concentrations of 3.3, 6.6 and 10 microg/ml. All A/S unsaponifiable mixtures reduced the spontaneous production of stromelysin, interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) by chrondrocytes. At concentrations of 3.3 and 6.6 microg/ml, A/S residues, tested separately, were potent inhibitors of the production of IL-8 and PGE2. Nevertheless, only avocado residue inhibited IL-6 production at these concentrations. A/S unsaponifiable mixtures had a more pronounced inhibitory effect on cytokine production than avocado or soybean residues added alone. As anticipated, IL-1beta induced a marked release of collagenase, stromelysin, IL-6, IL-8 and PGE2. A/S unsaponifiable mixtures partially reversed the IL-1 effects on chrondrocytes. These findings suggest a potential role for A/S unsaponifiable extracts in mitigating the deleterious effects of IL-1beta: on cartilage.