Leaf variegation has long been known as a recessive genetic trait in higher plants. Unlike albino mutants, leaf-variegated mutants are non-lethal and thus enable us to study a novel mechanism of plastid development and maintenance. Variegation results from a defect that makes chloroplast development unstable, since at least part of the tissues gives rise to normal chloroplasts. Despite the fact that leaf-variegated mutants have contributed to the findings of maternal inheritance or have been used as genetic markers, these mutations and the responsible loci have been poorly understood at the molecular level. A comprehensive study of the leaf-variegated mutants is possible in Arabidopsis, since such mutants have been known and the cloning can be at relative ease as a model plant. Here I summarize recent progress on characterization of the Arabidopsis leaf-variegated mutants. Detailed analysis of the responsible loci revealed that variegation is caused by a defect in various metabolic pathways related to organelle functions. Thus, studies on these genes provide us with novel redundant mechanisms by which heteroplasmic organelles such as plastids and mitochondria can survive from an environmental stress.