The ADP:O values in both cardiac and hepatic mitochondria have significantly decreased with an increase in protein level after 7, 14 and 21 d of feeding (Toyomizu et al. 1992). The present studies were undertaken to clarify tissue-specific effects of dietary protein levels on oxidative phosphorylation in the liver, kidney, skeletal muscles and small intestine and to characterize oxidative metabolism with diverse substrates in the liver. Chicks were fed on semi-purified diets of different protein levels (7, 25, 43 and 61% of metabolizable energy content) for 21 d. The responses of protein levels to oxidative phosphorylation showed tissue-dependency; although liver mitochondria of chickens fed on higher- protein diets exhibited reduced ADP:O values and state 3, neither changes in ADP:O value nor state 3 and state 4 rates were observed in the isolated mitochondria from kidney and skeletal muscles. Small intestinal mucosal mitochondria from chickens fed on a high (61%)-protein-energy diet showed significantly reduced ADP:O value and respiratory control ratio when compared with medium-protein- energy diets (25 and 43%). In liver mitochondria showing the most sensitive dependency to the levels of dietary protein, the ADP:O value decreased with increasing protein levels when pyruvate + malate- or glutamate-requiring complexes I, III and IV of the electron transport chain were used as substrates, but it did not change when succinate-requiring complexes II, III and IV or ascorbate + tetramethyl-p- phenylenediamine requiring complex IV was used. These results imply that impaired oxidative phosphorylation capacities with increasing dietary protein levels may be associated with functional damage to the respiratory chain for electron flow from NAD-linked substrates to the ubiquinone pool.