Lack of cytochrome-c oxidase activity and of cytochromes aa3 + b has been reported previously in the skeletal muscle of one of two siblings (Müller-Höcker et al, 1983). The present study reports a deficiency of immunoreactive enzyme protein in the skeletal muscle of both siblings, who had an identical fatal clinical course. In all specimens the defect did not involve the whole enzyme protein, but was selectively expressed in the mitochondrially derived subunits II/III and nuclear coded subunits VIIbc. Neither the specific fibers of the muscle spindles nor the mitochondria of the heart, liver, kidneys, vessel walls and/or gastrointestinal tract were affected. These results are most consistent with a primary nuclear defect being responsible for the organ specific and subunit selective expression of the enzyme defect.