Abstract Background 5-methylcytosine (m5C) modification is widely associated with many biological and pathological processes. However, knowledge of m5C modification in osteoarthritis (OA) remains lacking. Thus, our study aimed to identify common m5C features in OA. Results In the present study, we identified 1395 differentially methylated genes (DMGs) and 1673 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) using methylated RNA immunoprecipitation next-generation sequencing (MeRIP-seq) and RNA-sequencing. A co-expression analysis of DMGs and DEGs showed that the expression of 133 genes was significantly affected by m5C methylation. A protein–protein interaction network of the 133 genes was constructed using the STRING database, and the cytoHubba plug-in of Cytoscape was used to hub genes were screen out 11 hub genes, including MMP14, VTN, COL15A1, COL6A2, SPARC, COL5A1, COL6A3, COL6A1, COL8A2, ADAMTS2 and COL7A1. The Pathway enrichment analysis by the ClueGO and CluePedia plugins in Cytoscape showed that the hub genes were significantly enriched in collagen degradation and extracellular matrix degradation. Conclusions Our study indicated that m5C modification might play an important role in OA pathogenesis, and the present study provides worthwhile insight into identifying m5C-related therapeutic targets in OA.