The study was designed to determine the contents and distributions of the proteoglycans decorin and biglycan in adult human femoral condylar cartilage and whether these may change in osteoarthritis. New radioimmunoassays were established using peptides representing the amino-terminal 21 amino acid sequence of each proteoglycan (to which a tyrosine was added for radioiodination) and antibodies in a rabbit antiserum raised to both these molecules. Cartilage was extracted with 4 M guanidine HCl to determine total content, and extracts were analyzed by chromatography to determine molecular sizes. Frozen sections were cut parallel to the articular surface and were extracted to determine distribution within the tissue. Gel chromatography on Sepharose CL-2B under dissociative conditions revealed molecules with a partition coefficient of 0.7–0.75 in both normal and osteoarthritic cartilage. In normal adult cartilage, the mean contents of the core proteins of biglycan and decorin were calculated to be approximately 0.34 and 0.48 mg per gram wet weight, respectively. These represented molar contents similar to that of aggrecan. In osteoarthritic cartilage, there were no overall significant changes in the content and distribution of these molecules. There was, however, considerable individual variation in both distribution and content. Analyses indicated that there was a trend in osteoarthritic cartilage toward a loss of biglycan and decorin from the more superficial layers of intact cartilage, where both these molecules are normally more concentrated. This was accompanied by maintenance of proteoglycan content deeper in the cartilage, regardless of the degree of degeneration.