Chondrocytes depend upon solute transport within the avascular extracellular matrix of adult articular cartilage for many of their biological activities. Alterations to bioactive solute transport may, therefore, represent a mechanism by which cartilage compression is transduced into cellular metabolic responses. We investigated the effects of cartilage static compression on diffusivity and partitioning of a range of model solutes including dextrans of molecular weights 3 and 40 kDa, and tetramethylrhodamine (a 430 Da fluorophore). New fluorescence methods were developed for real-time visualization and measurement of transport within compressed cartilage explants. Experimental design allowed for multiple measurements on individual explants at different compression levels in order to minimize confounding influences of compositional variations. Results demonstrate that physiological levels of static compression may significantly decrease solute diffusivity and partitioning in cartilage. Effects of compression were most dramatic for the relatively high molecular weight solutes. For 40 kDa dextran, diffusivity decreased significantly (p<0.01) between 8% and 23% compression, while partitioning of 3 and 40 kDa dextran decreased significantly (p<0.01) between free-swelling conditions and 8% compression. Since diffusivity and partitioning can influence pericellular concentrations of bioactive solutes, these observations support a role for perturbations to solute transport in mediating the cartilage biological response to compression.