Specific mitochondrial enzyme activities, mitochondrial DNA copy number, and mRNA levels were measured in heart, brain, and liver tissues of a group of alcohol-fed rats and compared with a control group. The results show a significant increase in mitochondrial enzyme activities (citrate synthase, complex IV, complex III, complex I, and complex V), as well as an increase in mitochondrial DNA in the cardiac tissue of the alcohol-fed animals. These data are indicative of an increase in mitochondrial number in the cardiac tissue that may occur as the result of an adaptive response to the alcoholic insult. However, in the liver and brain of the alcohol-treated rat, specific mitochondrial activities were decreased, in particular, complex III and ATP synthase, whereas levels of other mitochondrial enzymes (e.g., citrate synthase, specific mitochondrial transcripts, and mitochondrial DNA levels) do not seem to be affected. These data suggest that a tissue-specific response to alcohol exists that may have a common molecular mechanism in brain and liver, but is different in the heart.