The interaction of adriamycin with cardiolipin in model membranes and in various membrane preparations derived from rat liver mitochondria was studied and the results are analyzed in the light of a possible specific interaction between adriamycin and cardiolipin. It was found that adriamycin binds to cardiolipin-containing model membranes with a fixed stoichiometry of two drug molecules per cardiolipin. Furthermore, the extent of drug complexation by mitochondria and mitoplasts (inner membrane plus matrix) is in reasonable agreement with their cardiolipin content. In contrast, adriamycin-binding curves of inner membrane ghosts and submitochondrial particles reveal considerable association to an additional site, presumably RNA. The evidence for the potential importance of RNA as a target comes from experiments on outer membranes and microsomes which both appear to bind substantial amounts of adriamycin. Removal of the major part of the RNA associated with these fractions by EDTA treatment is accompanied by a dramatic reduction of binding capacity. We propose that endogenous RNA present in mitochondria and mitoplasts is not accessible for adriamycin at low concentrations of the drug due to the presence of an intact lipid barrier. This potential site comes to expression in ghosts and submitochondrial particles, due to the absence of an intact lipid bilayer and due to the inside-out orientation of the limiting membrane, respectively. Electron microscopical studies show that adriamycin induces dramatic changes in mitochondrial morphology, similar to the uncoupler-induced effects described by Knoll and Brdiezka (Biochim. Biophys. Acta 733, 102–110 (1983)). Adriamycin has an uncoupling effect on mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation. The concentration dependence of this effect correlates with the adriamycin-binding curve for mitochondria which implies that only bound adriamycin actively inhibits respiration.