We identified a novel G3283A transition in the mitochondrial DNA tRNA(Leu (UUR)) gene in a patient with ptosis, ophthalmoparesis and hyporeflexia. Muscle biopsy showed cytochrome oxidase positive ragged-red fibers, and defects of complexes I, III and IV of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. The mutation was heteroplasmic in muscle of the proband, being absent in her blood. Ragged-red fibers harbored greater levels of mutant genomes than normal fibers. The G3283A mutation affects a strictly conserved base pair in the TPsiC stem of the gene and was not found in controls, thus satisfying the accepted criteria for pathogenicity.