Fourier transform infrared imaging (FT-IRI) and principal component regression (PCR) were used to quantitatively determine collagen and proteoglycan concentrations in bovine nasal cartilage (BNC). An infrared spectral library was first established by obtaining eleven infrared spectra from a series of collagen and chondroitin 6-sulfate mixed in different ratios. FT-IR images were obtained from 6-μm-thick sections of BNC specimens at 6.25-μm pixel size. The spectra from the FT-IR images were imported into a PCR program to obtain the relative concentrations of collagen and proteoglycan in BNC, based on the spectral library of pure chemicals. These PCR-determined concentrations agreed with the molecular concentrations determined biochemically using an enzyme digestion assay. Use of the imaging approach revealed that proteoglycan loss in the specimens occurs first at the surface of the tissue block when compared with the middle portion of the tissue block. The quantitative correlation of collagen and proteoglycan revealed that their infrared absorption peak areas at 1338 and 1072–855 cm<sup>–1</sup> can only be used as qualitative indicators of the molecular contents. The use of PCR with FT-IRI offers an accurate tool to spatially determine the distributions of macromolecular concentration in cartilage.
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