Mitochondrial diseases have been shown to result from mutations in mitochondrial genes located in either the nuclear DNA (nDNA) or mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Mitochondrial OXPHOS complex I has 45 subunits encoded by 38 nuclear and 7 mitochondrial genes. Two male patients in a putative X-linked pedigree exhibiting a progressive neurodegenerative disorder and a severe muscle complex I enzyme defect were analyzed for mutations in the 38 nDNA and seven mtDNA encoded complex I subunits. The nDNA X-linked NDUFA1 gene (MWFE polypeptide) was discovered to harbor a novel missense mutation which changed a highly conserved glycine at position 32 to an arginine, shown to segregate with the disease. When this mutation was introduced into a NDUFA1 null hamster cell line, a substantial decrease in the complex I assembly and activity was observed. When the mtDNA of the patient was analyzed, potentially relevant missense mutations were observed in the complex I genes. Transmitochondrial cybrids containing the patient's mtDNA resulted in a mild complex I deficiency. Interestingly enough, the nDNA encoded MWFE polypeptide has been shown to interact with various mtDNA encoded complex I subunits. Therefore, we hypothesize that the novel G32R mutation in NDUFA1 is causing complex I deficiency either by itself or in synergy with additional mtDNA variants.