Mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and strokelike episode (MELAS) is a major group of heterogeneous mitochondrial disorders. To identify the defective gene, mitochondrial DNA from a patient with MELAS was sequenced by using amplified DNA fragments as sequencing templates. In 14.1 kbp determined out of 16.6 kbp of the whole mitochondrial gene, at least 21 nucleotides were different from those of a control human mitochondrial DNA. One of the substitutions was a transition of A to G in the tRNA(Leu) (UUR) gene at Cambridge nucleotide number 3,243. This nucleotide is conserved not only in many mitochondrial tRNAs but in most cytosolic tRNA molecules. An Apa I restriction site was gained by the substitution of this nucleotide. The Apa I digestion of the amplified DNA fragment revealed that all independent 6 patients had G at nucleotide number 3,243 in their mitochondrial DNAs, but none of 11 control individuals had G at this position. This result strongly suggests that the mutation in the mitochondrial tRNALeu gene causes MELAS.