Dominant optic atrophy (DOA) is the commonest form of inherited optic neuropathy. Although heterogeneous, a major locus has been mapped to chromosome 3q28 and the gene responsible, OPA1, was recently identified. We therefore screened a panel of 35 DOA patients for mutations in OPA1. This revealed 14 novel mutations and a further three known mutations, which together accounted for 20 of the 35 families (57%) included in this study. This more than doubles the number of OPA1 mutations reported in the literature, bringing the total to 25. These are predominantly null mutations generating truncated proteins, strongly suggesting that the mechanism underlying DOA is haploinsufficiency. The mutations are largely family-specific, although a common 4 bp deletion in exon 27 (eight different families) and missense mutations in exons 8 (two families) and 9 (two families) have been identified. Haplotype analysis of individuals with the exon 27 2708del(TTAG) mutation suggests that this is a mutation hotspot and not an ancient mutation, thus excluding a major founder effect at the OPA1 locus. The mutation screening in this study also identified a number of asymptomatic individuals with OPA1 mutations. A re-calculation of the penetrance of this disorder within two of our families indicates figures as low as 43 and 62% associated with the 2708del(TTAG) mutation. If haploinsufficiency is the mechanism underlying DOA it is unlikely that this figure will be mutation-specific, indicating that the penetrance in DOA is much lower than the 98% reported previously. To investigate whether Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) could be caused by mutations in OPA1 we also screened a panel of 28 LHON patients who tested negatively for the three major LHON mutations. No mutations were identified in any LHON patients, indicating that DOA and LHON are genetically distinct.