An immobilized sequence-specific oligonucleotide (SSO) probe system consisting of 16 SSO probes that detect sequence polymorphisms within five regions of the mtDNA control region was used to investigate the frequency of heteroplasmy in human mtDNA. Five regions of hypervariable region II (HVII) of the control region were studied in blood-, muscle-, heart-, and brain-tissue samples collected from 43 individuals during autopsy. An initial search for heteroplasmy was conducted by use of the SSO probe system. Samples in which multiple probe signals were detected within a region were sequenced for the HVII region, to verify the typing-strip results. The frequency of heteroplasmy was 5 of 43 individuals, or 11.6%. The frequency of heteroplasmy differed across tissue types, being higher in muscle tissue. The difference in the frequency of heteroplasmy across different age groups was statistically significant, which suggests that heteroplasmy increases with age. As a test for contamination and to confirm heteroplasmy, the samples were sequenced for the HVI region and were typed by use of a panel of five polymorphic nuclear markers. Portions of the tissues that appeared to be heteroplasmic were extracted at least one additional time; all gave identical results. The results from these tests indicate that the multiple sequences present in individual samples result from heteroplasmy and not from contamination.