The effect of aging on the release of H2O2 by mitochondria was studied in the housefly in order to elucidate the causes of previously observed age-related increase in the level of oxidative stress. Intact flight muscle mitochondria of the housefly, supplemented with alpha-glycerophosphate, produce 1-2 nmol H2O2/min per mg protein, even in the absence of respiratory inhibitors. The rate of H2O2 secretion progressively increases approximately 2-fold during aging of the fly. Neither uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation nor mechanical damage to mitochondria during the isolation procedure appear to be responsible for the age-related increase in H2O2 production. Activities of NADH-ferricyanide reductase, succinate-ubiquinone reductase, and NADH-, succinate- and alpha-glycerophosphate-cytochrome c reductases, were approximately 2-fold higher in mitochondria from the old than those from the young flies. However, the concentration of enzymatically reducible ubiquinone remained unchanged with age. Infliction of damage by exposure of mitochondria to free radical-generating systems in vitro caused an increase in the rate of H2O2 generation. Glutaraldehyde, an intermolecular crosslinking agent, induced an increase in the rate of H2O2 generation by mitochondria. Results of this study demonstrate that aging in the housefly is associated with an increase in the rate of H2O2 generation by mitochondria probably due, at least in part, to self-inflicted damage by mitochondria. Intermolecular cross-linking in the inner mitochondrial membrane can contribute towards the increased H2O2 generation.