The complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences for 63 Dutch pedigrees with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) were determined, 56 of which carried one of the classic LHON mutations at nucleotide (nt) 3460, 11778, or 14484. Analysis of these sequences indicated that there were several instances in which the mtDNAs were either identical or related by descent. The most striking example was a haplogroup J mtDNA that carried the 14484 LHON mutation. Four different but related mitochondrial genotypes were identified in seven of the Dutch pedigrees with LHON, including six of those described by van Senus. The control region of the founder sequence for these Dutch pedigrees with LHON matches the control-region sequence that Macmillan and colleagues identified in the founder mtDNA of French Canadian pedigrees with LHON. In addition, we obtained a perfect match between the Dutch 14484 founder sequence and the complete mtDNA sequences of two Canadian pedigrees with LHON. Those results indicate that these Dutch and French Canadian 14484 pedigrees with LHON share a common ancestor, that the single origin of the 14484 mutation in this megalineage occurred before the year 1600, and that there is a 14484/haplogroup J founder effect. We estimate that this lineage--including the 14484 LHON mutation--arose 900-1,800 years ago. Overall, the phylogenetic analyses of these mtDNA sequences conservatively indicate that a LHON mutation has arisen at least 42 times in the Dutch population. Finally, analysis of the mtDNA sequences from those pedigrees that did not carry classic LHON mutations suggested candidate pathogenic mutations at nts 9804, 13051, and 14325.