Sequence variation in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) may cause slight differences both in the functioning of the respiratory chain and in free radical production, and an association between certain mtDNA haplogroups and longevity has been suggested. In order to determine further the role of mtDNA in longevity, we studied the frequencies of mtDNA haplogroups and haplogroup clusters among elderly subjects and controls in a Finnish population. Samples were obtained from 225 persons aged 90-91 years (Vitality 90+) and from 400 middle-aged controls and 257 infants. MtDNA haplogroups were determined by restriction fragment length polymorphism. The haplogroup frequencies of the Vitality 90+ group differed from both those of the middle-aged controls ( P=0.01) and the infants ( P=0.00005), haplogroup H being less frequent than among the middle-aged subjects ( P=0.001) and infants ( P=0.00001), whereas haplogroups U and J were more frequent. Haplogroup clusters also differed between Vitality 90+ and both the middle-aged subjects ( P=0.002) and infants ( P=0.00001), the frequency of haplogroup cluster HV being lower in the former and that of UK and WIX being higher. These data suggest an association between certain mtDNA haplogroups or haplogroup clusters and longevity. Furthermore, our data appear to favour the presence of advantageous polymorphisms and support a role for mitochondria and mtDNA in the degenerative processes involved in ageing.