We studied changes in chondrocyte gene expression, aggrecan degradation, and aggrecanase production and activity in normal and mechanically injured cartilage co-cultured with joint capsule tissue. Chondrocyte expression of 21 genes was measured at 1, 2, 4, 6, 12, and 24h after treatment; clustering analysis enabled identification of co-expression profiles. Aggrecan fragments retained in cartilage and released to medium and loss of cartilage sGAG were quantified. Increased expression of MMP-13 and ADAMTS4 clustered with effects of co-culture, while increased expression of ADAMTS5, MMP-3, TGF-beta, c-fos, c-jun clustered with cartilage injury. ADAMTS5 protein within cartilage (immunohistochemistry) increased following injury and with co-culture. Cartilage sGAG decreased over 16-days, most severely following injury plus co-culture. Cartilage aggrecan was cleaved at aggrecanase sites in the interglobular and C-terminal domains, resulting in loss of the G3 domain, especially after injury plus co-culture. Together, these results support the hypothesis that interactions between injured cartilage and other joint tissues are important in matrix catabolism after joint injury.