NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) deficiency is a common cause of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation disease. It is associated with a wide range of clinical phenotypes in infants, including Leigh syndrome, cardiomyopathy, and encephalomyopathy. In at least half of patients, enzyme deficiency results from a failure to assemble the holoenzyme complex; however, the molecular chaperones required for assembly of the mammalian enzyme remain unknown. Using whole genome subtraction of yeasts with and without a complex I to generate candidate assembly factors, we identified a paralogue (B17.2L) of the B17.2 structural subunit. We found a null mutation in B17.2L in a patient with a progressive encephalopathy and showed that the associated complex I assembly defect could be completely rescued by retroviral expression of B17.2L in patient fibroblasts. An anti-B17.2L antibody did not associate with the holoenzyme complex but specifically recognized an 830-kDa subassembly in several patients with complex I assembly defects and coimmunoprecipitated a subset of complex I structural subunits from normal human heart mitochondria. These results demonstrate that B17.2L is a bona fide molecular chaperone that is essential for the assembly of complex I and for the normal function of the nervous system.