Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease of unclear etiology. This study was conducted to identify critical factors involved in the synovial hyperplasia in RA pathology. We applied cDNA microarray analysis to profile the gene expressions of RA fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) from patients with RA. We found that the MLN51 (metastatic lymph node 51) gene, identified in breast cancer, is remarkably upregulated in the hyperactive RA FLSs. However, growth-retarded RA FLSs passaged in vitro expressed small quantities of MLN51. MLN51 expression was significantly enhanced in the FLSs when the growth-retarded FLSs were treated with granulocyte – macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) or synovial fluid (SF). Anti-GM-CSF neutralizing antibody blocked the MLN51 expression even though the FLSs were cultured in the presence of SF. In contrast, GM-CSF in SFs existed at a significant level in the patients with RA (n = 6), in comparison with the other inflammatory cytokines, IL-1β and TNF-α. Most RA FLSs at passage 10 or more recovered from their growth retardation when cultured in the presence of SF. The SF-mediated growth recovery was markedly impaired by anti-GM-CSF antibody. Growth-retarded RA FLSs recovered their proliferative capacity after treatment with GM-CSF in a dose-dependent manner. However, MLN51 knock-down by siRNA completely blocked the GM-CSF/SF-mediated proliferation of RA FLSs. Taken together, our results imply that MLN51, induced by GM-CSF, is important in the proliferation of RA FLSs in the pathogenesis of RA.