'Myofibrillar myopathy' defines a myopathic condition with focal myofibrillar destruction and accumulation of degraded myofibrillar elements. Despite the fact that a number of mutations in different genes as well as cytotoxic agents lead to the disease, abnormal accumulation of desmin is a typical, common feature. Pathological changes of mitochondrial morphology and function have been observed in animal models with intermediate filament pathology. Therefore, in the present study we tested for mitochondrial pathology in skeletal muscle of five patients with the pathohistological diagnosis of myofibrillar myopathy. Screening for large-scale mtDNA deletions and the frequent MERRF (myoclonic epilepsy; ragged red fibres) and MELAS (mitochondrial encephalomyopathy; lactic acidosis; stroke) point mutations was negative in all patients. Histologically, all muscle biopsies showed nonspecific abnormalities of the oxidative/mitochondrial enzyme stainings (histochemistry for reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, succinic dehydrogenase, cytochrome c oxidase), only one of them had ragged red fibres and a significant number of cytochrome c oxidase-negative fibres. Upon biochemical investigation, four of our patients showed pathologically low respiratory chain complex I activities. Only one of our patients had a pathologically low complex IV activity, while the measurements of the others were within low normal range. The single patient with pathological values for both complex I and IV was the one with the clear histological hallmarks (ragged red and cytochrome c oxidase-negative fibres) of mitochondrial pathology. She also was the only patient with clinical signs hinting at a mitochondrial disorder. Together with data from observations in desmin- and plectin-deficient mice, our results support the view that desmin intermediate filament pathology in these cases is closely linked to mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle.