The normal synovium forms a membrane at the edges of joints and provides lubrication and nutrients for the cartilage. In rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium is the site of inflammation, and it participates in an organized tissue response that damages cartilage and bone. We identified cadherin-11 as essential for the development of the synovium. Cadherin-11-deficient mice have a hypoplastic synovial lining, display a disorganized synovial reaction to inflammation, and are resistant to inflammatory arthritis. Cadherin-11 therapeutics prevent and reduce arthritis in mouse models. Thus, synovial cadherin-11 determines the behavior of synovial cells in their proinflammatory and destructive tissue response in inflammatory arthritis.