Aggrecan loss from mouse cartilage is predominantly because of ADAMTS-5 activity; however, the relative contribution of other proteolytic and nonproteolytic processes to this loss is not clear. This is the first study to compare aggrecan loss with aggrecan processing in mice with single and double deletions of ADAMTS-4 and -5 activity (Deltacat). Cartilage explants harvested from single and double ADAMTS-4 and -5 Deltacat mice were cultured with or without interleukin (IL)-1alpha or retinoic acid and analyzed for (i) the kinetics of (35)S-labeled aggrecan loss, (ii) the pattern of (35)S-labeled aggrecan fragments released into the media and retained in the matrix, (iii) the pattern of total aggrecan fragments released into the media and retained in the matrix, and (iv) specific cleavage sites within the interglobular and chondroitin sulfate-2 domains. The loss of radiolabeled aggrecan from ADAMTS-4/-5 Deltacat cartilage was less than that from ADAMTS-4, ADAMTS-5, or wild-type cartilage under nonstimulated conditions. IL-1alpha and retinoic acid stimulated radiolabeled aggrecan loss from wild-type and ADAMTS-4 Deltacat cartilage, but there was little effect on ADAMTS-5 cartilage. Proteolysis of aggrecan contributed most to its loss in wild-type, ADAMTS-4, and ADAMTS-5 Deltacat cartilage explants. The pattern of proteolytic processing of aggrecan in these cultures was consistent with that occurring in cartilage pathologies. Retinoic acid, but not IL-1alpha, stimulated radiolabeled aggrecan loss from ADAMTS-4/-5 Deltacat cartilage explants. Even though there was a 300% increase in aggrecan loss from ADAMTS-4/-5 Deltacat cartilage stimulated with retinoic acid, the loss was not associated with aggrecanase cleavage but with the release of predominantly intact aggrecan consistent with the phenotype of the ADAMTS-4/-5 Deltacat mouse. Our results show that chondrocytes have additional mechanism for the turnover of aggrecan and that when proteolytic mechanisms are blocked by ablation of aggrecanase activity, nonproteolytic mechanisms compensate to maintain cartilage homeostasis.