We measured the activities of two mitochondrial enzymes, the mitochondrial form of aspartate aminotransferase (EC 126.96.36.199) and glutamate dehydrogenase (EC 188.8.131.52), in the serum of apparently healthy persons (n = 84) and patients suffering from chronic liver diseases (n = 43). The distribution of activities for glutamate dehydrogenase, but not mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase, was sex-dependent. The upper limits of the reference intervals (99th percentile) at 37 degrees C were 3.2 U/L for mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase, 6.4 U/L for glutamate dehydrogenase (women), and 11.0 U/L for glutamate dehydrogenase (men); there was a weak correlation between the activities of both mitochondrial enzymes (r = 0.439). In patients with chronic liver diseases we found a greater increase in the activity of glutamate dehydrogenase than of mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase and the correlation between the two mitochondrial enzymes was stronger. The diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of either mitochondrial enzyme was less than that of total aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase (EC 184.108.40.206), or gamma-glutamyltransferase (EC 220.127.116.11).