Thymoquinone (TQ) is the main constituent of Nigella sativa oil, which has been traditionally used against arthritis in the Middle East. In this study, we investigated the effect of TQ against matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression in both rabbit chondrocytes and animal mode of osteoarthritis (OA) induced by anterior cruciate ligament transection and tested whether or not nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) was involved in this process. TQ down-regulated MMP-1, MMP-3 and MMP-13 expression and up-regulated tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase-1 expression as assessed by quantitative realtime polymerase chain reaction. In addition, NF-κB p65 protein level as well as its translocation induced by interleukin-1β were inhibited by TQ. Our findings suggest the potential of TQ in the treatment of OA.