One of the functions of articular cartilage is to withstand recurrent pressure applied in everyday life. In previous studies, osmotic pressure has been used to mimic the effects of mechanical pressure. In the present study, the response of the collagen network of intact and proteoglycans (PG)-depleted cartilage to mechanical and osmotic pressures is compared. The technique used is one-dimensional 2H double quantum filtered spectroscopic MRI, which gives information about the degree of order and the density of the collagen fibers at the different locations throughout the intact tissue. For the nonpressurized plugs, the depletion had no effect on these parameters. Major differences were found in the zones near the bone between the effects of the two types of application of pressure for both intact and depleted plugs. While the order is lost in these zones as a result of mechanical load, it is preserved under osmotic pressure. For both intact and PG-depleted plugs under osmotic stress most of the collagen fibers become disordered. Our results indicate that different modes of strain are produced by unidirectional mechanical load and the isotropic osmotic stress. Thus, osmotic stress cannot serve as a model for the effect of load on cartilage in vivo.