Several reports have shown that individual mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions accumulate with age. However, the overall extent of somatic mtDNA damage with age remains unclear. We have utilized full-length PCR to concurrently screen for multiple mtDNA rearrangements in total DNA extracted from skeletal muscle derived from physiologically normal individuals ( n = 35). This revealed that both the number and variety of mtDNA rearrangements increases dramatically between young and old individuals (P < 0.0001). We further examined the mtDNA from both the younger and older subjects by Southern blot analysis and observed an age-related increase in mtDNA(s) comparable in size to mtDNA products unique to patients with known mtDNA deletions. These data imply that a wide spectrum of mtDNA rearrangements accumulate in old individuals, which correlates with the marked age related decrease in OXPHOS capacity observed in post-mitotic tissues.