Various proton relaxation times (T2, T1rho, and gadolinium-diethylene triamine pentaacetic acid [Gd-DTPA]-enhanced T1) were measured in articular cartilage in vitro at 3 T to assess their role in visualizing proteoglycan depletion. Cartilage-bone specimens were obtained from patients who underwent total joint replacement and got a double dose of Gd-DTPA 2 hours prior surgery. In these specimens, regions of mechanically undamaged cartilage having a decreased content of proteoglycans showed about 15% lower T1 values compared with apparently normal cartilaginous tissue. The expected increase of the T2 relaxation time was not observed in these regions. On the other hand, the T2 and, to a lower degree, T1 relaxation times were found to be increased in regions of cartilage fibrillation. The T1rho relaxation times obtained were slightly longer than the corresponding T2 values, but both parameters showed almost identical spatial distributions. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 1999;10:497-502.