This study addresses an application of pyridine nucleotide enzymatic analyses to evaluate the activity of the mitochondrial electron transport chain (reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) oxidase) and Complexes I and II in samples of human muscle as small as approximately 10 mg wet weight. Key aspects in this adaptation are the use of high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection of NADH and use of alamethicin, a channel-forming antibiotic that enables an unrestricted access of substrates into the mitochondrial matrix. The procedure includes disintegration of tissue by Polytron homogenizer, extraction of myosin from myofibrillar fragments by KCl/pyrophosphate to facilitate release of mitochondria, and preparation of fractions of subsarcolemmal and intermyofibrillar mitochondria. Oxidation of NADH or succinate is assayed in the presence of 40 microg/ml alamethicin and the reaction is terminated by H(2)SO(4), which also destroys the remaining NADH. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) or fumarate concentrations are measured using alcohol dehydrogenase or fumarase plus malic dehydrogenase reactions, respectively. Generation of NADH, assessed in auxiliary reactions in the presence of hydrazine, is strictly proportional to NAD or fumarate content across a concentration range of 1-20 microM. NADH is quantitatively analyzed with a detection limit of 3-5 pmol by HPLC using a reverse-phase Hypersil ODS column connected to a fluorescence detector.