We have sequenced the deletion borders of the muscle mitochondrial DNA from 24 patients with heteroplasmic deletions. The length of these deletions varies from 2.310 bp to 8.476 bp and spans from position 5.786 to 15.925 of the human mitochondrial genome preserving the heavy chain and light chain origins of replication. 12 cases are common deletions identical to the mutation already described by other workers and characterized by 13 bp repeats at the deletion boundaries, one of these repeats being retained during the deletion process. The other cases (10 out of 12) have shown deletions which have not been previously described. All these deletions are located in the H strand DNA region which is potentially single stranded during mitochondrial DNA replication. In two cases, the retained Adenosine from repeat closed to the heavy strand origin of replication would indicate slippage mispairing. Furthermore in one patient two mt DNA molecules have been cloned and their sequences showed the difference of four nucleotides in the breakpoint of the deletion, possibly dued to slippage mispairing. Taken together our results suggest that deletions occur either by slippage mispairing or by internal recombination at the direct repeat level. They also suggest that different mechanisms account for the deletions since similarly located deletions may display different motives at the boundaries including the absence of any direct repeat.