The prevalence in tissues of mtDNA deletions was compared by PCR between humans and rats of similar 'biological ages'. Pairs of species-specific primers were used which spanned similar portions of the human and rat mtDNA genomes. There were much fewer PCR products amplified from rat mtDNA than from human mtDNA in each of the three tissues initially analysed: heart, liver and skeletal muscle. By contrast, many more PCR products were amplified from rat kidney than from human kidney. Therefore, while there were far more deletions in heart, liver and skeletal muscle of humans than in corresponding rat tissues, the prevalence of mtDNA deletions was markedly less in human kidney than in rat kidney. The data also indicate that human kidney contains less mtDNA deletions than heart, liver and skeletal muscle in humans; whereas in rat kidney there are more mtDNA deletions than in those three tissues of rat. It is further suggested that, when utilising rodents as experimental models for human ageing, the appropriate tissues should be considered, since not all tissues of rats accumulate mtDNA mutations in the same manner as those of humans.