In 60 human tissue samples (encompassing skeletal muscle, heart and kidney) obtained from subjects aged from under 1 to 90 years, we used quantitative PCR procedures to quantify mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecules carrying the 4977 bp deletion (mtDNA4977) and 3243 A-->G base substitution. In addition, the prevalence of multiple mtDNA deletions was assessed in a semi-quantitative manner. For all three tissues, the correlations between the accumulation of the particular mtDNA mutations and age of the subject are highly significant. However, differential extents of accumulation of the two specific mutations in the various tissues were observed. Thus, the mean abundance (percentage of mutant mtDNA out of total mtDNA) of mtDNA4977in a subset of age-matched adults is substantially higher in skeletal muscle than in heart and kidney. However, the mean abundance of the 3243 A-->G mutation in skeletal muscle was found to be lower than that in heart and kidney. Visualisation of arrays of PCR products arising from multiple mtDNA deletions in DNA extracted from adult skeletal muscle, was readily made after 30 cycles of PCR. By contrast, in DNA extracted from adult heart or kidney, amplification for 35 cycles of PCR was required to detect multiple mtDNA deletions. Although such multiple deletions are less abundant in heart and kidney than in skeletal muscle, in all tissue extracts there are unique patterns of bands, even from different tissues of the same subject. The differential accumulation of mtDNA4977, other mtDNA deletions and the 3243 A-->G mutation in the three tissues analysed presumably reflects different metabolic and senescence characteristics of these various tissues.