Changes in the stiffness of chondrocyte extracellular matrix (ECM) are involved in the pathological progression of osteoarthritis (OA). However, the downstream responses of cartilage ECM stiffness are still unclear. YAP (Yes-associated protein) has been extensively studied as a mechanotransducer, we thus hypothesized that by targeting the downstream molecule activity of ECM stiffness could maintain chondrocyte phenotype and prevent cartilage degeneration in OA. Here, we showed that human cartilage matrix stiffened during pathological progression of OA, and the chondrocyte YAP activity was associated with ECM stiffness. We then mimicked the physiological and pathological stiffness of human cartilage by using PDMS-based substrates, and found that YAP was activated in chondrocytes seeded on stiff substrate, gradually losing their phenotype. In addition, it was observed that YAP was also significantly activated in mice OA development, and conditional knockout (cKO) of YAP in mice preserved collagen II expression and protected cartilage from degeneration in the OA model. Furthermore, intra-articular injection of YAP-selective inhibitor, Verteporfin, significantly maintained cartilage homeostasis in mice OA model. This study indicates that the application of mechanotransducer-targeted drugs could be a potential therapeutic approach for cartilage repair in OA.