Mitochondrial impairment has been implicated in the pathogenesis of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Furthermore, mitochondrial-specific polymorphisms were previously related to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson, Friedreich and Alzheimer disease. To investigate if specific genetic polymorphisms within the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) could act as susceptibility factors and contribute to the clinical expression of sporadic ALS (sALS), we have genotyped predefined European mtDNA haplogroups in 222 Italian patients with sALS and 151 matched controls. Individuals classified as haplogroup I demonstrated a significant decrease in risk of ALS versus individuals carrying the most common haplogroup, H (odds ratio 0.08, 95% confidence interval 0.04-0.4, p < 0.01). Further stratification of the dataset by sex, age and site of onset of disease and survival failed to reach significance for association. Our study provides evidence of the contribution of mitochondrial variation to the risk of ALS development in Caucasians. Further it may help elucidate the mechanism of the mitochondrial dysfunction detectable in ALS, and may be of relevance in development of strategies for the treatment of this disease.