Objective. This study explored the therapeutic effect of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), administered by gene transfer, on the progression of osteoarthritic (OA) lesions in an experimental dog model. Methods. Seventeen mature mongrel dugs were divided into 3 groups. Group 1 (n = 7) had an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) section of the right knee through a stab wound incision. Groups 2 and 3 (n = 5 per group), had an ACL section of the right knee and partial synovectomy of the left knee. Each dog's synovium was subjected to enzymatic digestion, and the synovial fibroblasts were propagated in monolayer culture. Synovial cells from each dog were transduced in vitro using the retrovirus MFG with either the Escherichia coli β-galactosidase (lac Z) gene (group 2) or the human IL-1Ra gene (group 3). Two days after surgery, the dogs received intraarticular injections as follows: group 1 phosphate buffered saline (PBS) (2 ml); group 2 autologous cells (60 x 10 6 cells/2 ml (of PBS) transduced with the lac Z gene; group 3 autologous cells transduced with the IL-1Ra gene. Synovial fluid was aspirated at 2 weeks and 4 weeks. All dogs were euthanized at 4 weeks postsurgery. The right knees were dissected, and lesions were scored for macroscopic and microscopic changes. Synovial explants were dissected and representative specimens were used for histology or were cultured for 48 hours. The levels of IL-1Ra in synovial fluid and synovial explant conditioned medium were measured by specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results. The level of IL-1Ra in synovial fluid of group 3 was 202.8 ± 131.5 ng/ml (mean ± SEM) at 2 weeks and 2.8 ± 2.2 ng/ml at 4 weeks after surgery. Membrane explants isolated from dogs that received synovial cells transduced with the IL-1Ra gene (group 3) actively produced IL-1Ra (4.0 ± 2.0 ng/gm of tissue wet weight). The severity of OA cartilage lesions was similar in groups 1 and 2. In contrast, group 3 dogs had a marked reduction in macroscopic lesion severity on the tibial plateaus (P < 0.01 for grade; P < 0.04 far size) and femoral condyles. Moreover, the histologic lesion severity was decreased on both plateaus (P < 0.06) and condyles. Conclusion. This study showed that a local increase in IL-1Ra production in OA knee joints by intraarticular injection of transduced synovial cells can reduce the progression of experimentally induced lesions.