Bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) has been proposed as a tool for cartilage repair and as a stimulant of chondrogenesis. In healthy cartilage, BMP-2 is hardly present, whereas it is highly expressed during osteoarthritis. To assess its function in cartilage, BMP-2 was overexpressed in healthy murine knee joints and the effects on proteoglycan (PG) synthesis and degradation were evaluated. Moreover, the contribution of BMP in repairing damage induced by interleukin-1 (IL-1) was investigated. Ad-BMP-2 was injected intra-articularly into murine knee joints, which were isolated 3, 7, and 21 days after injection for histology, immunohistochemistry, and autoradiography. In addition, patellar and tibial cartilage was isolated for RNA isolation or measurement of PG synthesis by means of 35SO4 2- incorporation. To investigate the role for BMP-2 in cartilage repair, cartilage damage was induced by intra-articular injection of IL-1. After 2 days, Ad-BMP-2, Ad-BMP-2 + Ad-gremlin, Ad-gremlin, or a control virus was injected. Whole knee joints were isolated for histology at day 4 or patellae were isolated to measure 35SO42- incorporation. BMP-2 stimulated PG synthesis in patellar cartilage on all days and in tibial cartilage on day 21. Aggrecan mRNA expression had increased on all days in patellar cartilage, with the highest increase on day 7. Collagen type II expression showed a similar expression pattern. In tibial cartilage, collagen type II and aggrecan mRNA expression had increased on days 7 and 21. BMP-2 overexpression also induced increased aggrecan degradation in cartilage. VDIPEN staining (indicating matrix metalloproteinase activity) was elevated on day 3 in tibial cartilage and on days 3 and 7 in patellar cartilage, but no longer was by day 21. Increased NITEGE staining (indicating aggrecanase activity) was found on days 7 and 21. In IL-1-damaged patellar cartilage, BMP-2 boosted PG synthesis. Blocking of BMP activity resulted in a decreased PG synthesis compared with IL-1 alone. This decreased PG synthesis was associated with PG depletion in the cartilage. These data show that BMP-2 boosts matrix turnover in intact and IL-damaged cartilage. Moreover, BMP contributes to the intrinsic repair capacity of damaged cartilage. Increased matrix turnover might be functional in replacing matrix molecules in the repair of a damaged cartilage matrix.