Deleted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was accumulated in the parkinsonian striatum, but the same deleted mtDNA was also detectable in the control striatum when cycles of polymerase chain reaction were increased. To discriminate between these pathological and physiological conditions, we quantitatively analyzed the proportion of deleted mtDNA to normal mtDNA by measuring the incorporation of alpha-[32P]deoxycytosine triphosphate into mtDNA fragments by using a laser image analyzer. To estimate the molar ratio of the deleted mtDNA to normal mtDNA, the radioactivity was normalized by each fragment size. By plotting logarithms of normalized radioactivities against PCR amplification cycles, straight lines were obtained with different slopes. By extrapolation of the line to the zero amplification, the proportion of mutant mtDNA to normal mtDNA in the original sample from the parkinsonian striatum was estimated to be ca. 5%, which was at least ten times higher than the proportion of ca. 0.3% in the control striatum. These results indicate that phenotype of the mutant mtDNA as Parkinson's disease is expressed when the proportion of deleted mtDNA to normal mtDNA exceeds a threshold of ten times higher value than in the normal subject.