Skeletal muscle fibers typically undergo modifications in their mitochondrial content, concomitant with alterations in oxidative metabolism that occur during the development of muscle fiber and in response to physiological stimuli. We examined how cold acclimation affects the mitochondrial properties of two fish skeletal muscle fiber types and how the regulators of mitochondrial content differed between tissues. After 2 mo of acclimation to either 4 or 18 degrees C, mitochondrial enzyme activities in both red and white muscle were higher in cold-acclimated fish. No significant differences were detected between acclimation temperatures in the abundance of steady-state mitochondrial mRNA (cytochrome-c oxidase 1, subunit 6 of F0F1-ATPase), rRNA (16S), or DNA copy number. Steady-state mRNA for nuclear-encoded respiratory (adenine nucleotide translocase 1) and glycolytic genes showed high interindividual variability, particularly in the cold-acclimated fish. Although mitochondrial enzymes were 10-fold different between the two muscle types, mitochondrial DNA copy number differed only 4-fold. The relative abundance of mitochondrial mRNA and nuclear mRNA in red and white muscle reflected the differences in copy number of their respective genes. These data suggest that the response to physiological stimuli and determination of tissue-specific mitochondrial properties likely result from the regulation of nuclear-encoded genes.