A fluorescent-based quantitative PCR assay to measure the percentage of the common deletion in rat mitochondria is reported. The amount of the common deletion is measured relative to the amount of total mitochondrial (mt)DNA. The use of a heterologous competitor construct allows the reaction to be monitored to ensure that exponential accumulation of products occurs. The use of fluorescence-labeled primers provides a safe and sensitive means to quantify products without any adjustment for size. This assay will allow the quantitative determination of the common deletion with one dilution range.