We have previously described a family with a neurological syndrome comprising neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia, retinitis pigmentosa, and variable sensory neuropathy, seizures, and mental retardation or dementia. This is associated with a heteroplasmic point mutation of mtDNA at bp 8993. The mother of a severely affected child underwent prenatal diagnosis in two further pregnancies. Analysis of chorionic villus samples showed a higher proportion of mutant mtDNA on both occasions, and this was reflected in the majority of fetal tissues, including brain and muscle. Prenatal diagnosis is a rational approach to the prevention of severe diseases caused by point mutations of mtDNA but is currently hampered by incomplete knowledge concerning the proportion of mutant mtDNA: its relationship to disease severity, how it may change during fetal and postnatal development, and its tissue distribution.