Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH):ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) is the largest complex of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and complex I deficiency accounts for approximately 30% cases of respiratory-chain deficiency in humans. Only seven mitochondrial DNA genes, but >35 nuclear genes encode complex I subunits. In an attempt to elucidate the molecular bases of complex I deficiency, we studied the six most-conserved complex I nuclear genes (NDUFV1, NDUFS8, NDUFS7, NDUFS1, NDUFA8, and NDUFB6) in a series of 36 patients with isolated complex I deficiency by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography and by direct sequencing of the corresponding cDNA from cultured skin fibroblasts. In 3/36 patients, we identified, for the first time, five point mutations (del222, D252G, M707V, R241W, and R557X) and one large-scale deletion in the NDUFS1 gene. In addition, we found six novel NDUFV1 mutations (Y204C, C206G, E214K, IVS 8+41, A432P, and del nt 989-990) in three other patients. The six unrelated patients presented with hypotonia, ataxia, psychomotor retardation, or Leigh syndrome. These results suggest that screening for complex I nuclear gene mutations is of particular interest in patients with complex I deficiency, even when normal respiratory-chain-enzyme activities in cultured fibroblasts are observed.