Nucleotide sequences of the major noncoding region of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 95 human placentas have been determined. These sequences include at least a 482-bp-long region encompassing most of the D-loop-forming region. Comparisons of these sequences with those previously determined have revealed remarkable features of nucleotide substitutions and insertion/deletion events. The nucleotide diversity among the sequences is estimated as 1.45%, which is three- to fourfold higher than the corresponding value estimated from restriction-enzyme analysis of whole mtDNA genome. A hypervariable region has also been defined. In this 14-bp region, 17 different sequences were detected. More than 97% of the base changes are transitions. A significantly nonrandom distribution of nucleotide substitutions and sequence length variations were also noted. The phylogenetic analysis indicates that diversity among the negroids is much larger than that among the caucasoids or the mongoloids. In fact, part of the negroids first diverged from other humans in the phylogenetic tree. A striking finding in the phylogenetic analysis is that the mongoloids can be separated into two distinct groups. Divergence of part of the mongoloids follows the earliest divergence of part of the negroids. The remainder of the mongoloids subsequently diverged together with the caucasoids. This observation confirmed our earlier study, which clearly demonstrated, by the restriction-enzyme analysis, existence of two distinct groups in the Japanese.