In this study the endogenous fluorescence signal attributed to reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) has been measured in response to photodynamic therapy (PDT)-induced damage. Measurements on cells in vitro have shown that NADH fluorescence decreased relative to that of controls after treatment with a toxic dose of PDT, as measured within 30 min after treatment. Similarly, assays of cell viability indicated that mitochondrial function was reduced immediately after treatment in proportion to the dose delivered, and the proportion of this dose response did not degrade further over 24 h. Measurements in vivo were used to monitor the fluorescence emission spectrum and the excited state lifetime of NADH in PDT-treated tissue. The NADH signal was defined as the ratio of the integrated fluorescence intensity of the 450 +/- 25 nm emission band relative to the fluorescence intensity integrated over the entire 400-600 nm range of collection. Measurements in murine muscle tissue indicated a 22% reduction in the fluorescence signal immediately after treatment with verteporfin-based PDT, using a dose of 2 mg/kg injected 15 min before a 48 J/cm2 light dose at 690 nm. Control animals without photosensitizer injection had no significant change in the fluorescence signal from laser irradiation at the same doses. This signal was monotonically correlated to the deposited dose used here and could provide a direct dosimetric measure of PDT-induced cellular death in the tissue being treated.