Experimental data suggest a possible role of DNA damage in aging, mainly related to oxidative lesions. With the objective of evaluating DNA lesions as molecular biomarkers of aging, we measured 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OH-dG) and DNA-protein crosslinks (DPXL) levels in different organs of mice aged 12 and 24 months. 8-OH-dG was detected by 32P postlabelling after removing unmodified dG by trifluoracetic acid, which prevented the artificial formation of 8-OH-dG during 32P labelling procedures. Appreciable 8-OH-dG amounts were detected in 12-month-old mice in liver (1.8 +/- 0.7 8-OH-dG/10(5) normal nucleotides), brain (1.6 +/- 0.5) and heart (2.3 +/- 0.5). In 24-month-old mice these values were higher in all examined organs (liver, 2.7 +/- 0.4; brain, 3.6 +/- 1.1; heart, 6.8 +/- 2.2 8-OH-dG/10(5) normal nucleotides). This accounted for a 1.5-fold increase in liver (not significant), 2.3-fold increase in brain (P < 0.01), and 3.0-fold increase in heart (P < 0.001). A similar trend was observed for DPXL levels, which were the 1.8 +/- 0.3%, 1.2 +/- 0.2%, and 2.2 +/- 0.3% of total DNA in liver, brain, and heart of 12-month-old mice and 1.9 +/- 0.4%, 2.0 +/- 0.4%, and 3.4 +/- 0.5% in 24-month-old mice, with ratios of 1.0, 1.7 (P < 0.01), and 1.5 (P < 0.001), respectively. Highly significant correlations between 8-OH-dG and DPXL levels were recorded in brain (r = 0.619, P < 0.001) and heart (r = 0.800, P < 0.0001), but not in liver (r = 0.201, not significant). These data suggest that brain and heart are more severely affected by the monitored age-related DNA lesions than liver, which can be ascribed to certain characteristics of these postmitotic organs, including the low detoxifying capacities, the high oxygen consumption, and the impossibility to replace damaged cells by mitosis. The strong correlation between 8-OH-dG and DPXL supports a possible contribution of oxidative mechanisms to formation of DPXL in those organs, such as brain and heart, which play a primary role in the aging of the whole organism.