Many incurable mitochondrial disorders result from mutant mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and impaired respiration. Leigh's syndrome (LS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder of infants, and Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) causes blindness in young adults. Treatment of LHON and LS cells harboring G11778A and T8993G mutant mtDNA, respectively, by >90%, with healthy donor mtDNA complexed with recombinant human mitochondrial transcription factor A (rhTFAM), improved mitochondrial respiration by ∼1.2-fold in LHON cells and restored >50% ATP synthase function in LS cells. Mitochondrial replication, transcription, and translation of key respiratory genes and proteins were increased in the short term. Increased NRF1, TFAMB1, and TFAMA expression alluded to the activation of mitochondrial biogenesis as a mechanism for improving mitochondrial respiration. These results represent the development of a therapeutic approach for LHON and LS patients in the near future.