Osteoarthritis (OA) is characterized by a slowly progressing degradation of the matrix and destruction of articular cartilage. Apoptosis of chondrocyte is accounted for the mechanism of OA. Nitric oxide (NO), as a stimulus, has been shown to induce chondrocyte apoptosis by activating the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), increasing the expression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) and the level of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), inhibiting the proteoglycan synthesis and type II collagen expression. In this study, sodium nitroprusside (SNP) was administered to be the NO donor to explore the mechanism of NO-induced apoptosis of rabbit chondrocytes obtained from six weeks old New Zealand rabbits. CCK-8 assay revealed the inhibitory effect of SNP on cell viability. We used flow cytometry (FCM) to assess the form of cell death by Annexin-V/propidium iodide (PI) double staining, and evaluate the change of mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm). We found that the SNP induced chondrocyte apoptosis in a dose- and time-dependent manner and an observable reduction of ΔΨm. In conclusion, our findings indicate that SNP induces apoptosis of rabbit chondrocytes via a mitochondria-mediated pathway.