The ceroid lipofuscinoses (Batten's disease) are a group of neuro-degenerative lysosomal storage diseases of children and animals that are recessively inherited. In the diseased individuals fluorescent storage bodies accumulate in a wide variety of cells, including neurons. The material stored in the cells of sheep affected with ceroid lipofuscinosis is two-thirds protein. The stored material does not arise from lipid peroxidation or a defect in lipid metabolism, and the lipid content is consistent with a lysosomal origin for the storage bodies. The major protein stains poorly with Coomassie blue dye and is soluble in organic solvents. It has an apparent molecular weight of 3,500 and its amino acids sequence is identical to that of the dicyclohexylcarbodiimide (DCCD) reactive proteolipid, subunit c, of mammalian mitochondrial ATP synthases. Apart from removal of mitochondrial import sequences, it has not been modified post-translationally. At least 50% of the mass of the storage bodies is composed of this protein. A minor protein sequence related to the 17-kDa subunit of vacuolar H(+)-ATPase is also found in storage bodies isolated from pancreas. As in humans and cattle, the ovine protein is the product of two expressed genes named P1 and P2. In normal and diseased animals there are no differences in sequences between P1 cDNAs or P2 cDNAs, nor do levels of mRNAs in liver for P1 or P2 differ substantially between normal and diseased animals. Both normal and diseased sheep also express a spliced pseudogene encoding amino acids 1 to 31 of the mitochondrial import presequence. The peptides they encode differ by one amino acid; arginine-23 is changed to glutamine in the diseased sheep. Storage bodies isolated from brains and pancreas of children affected with the juvenile and late infantile forms of ceroid lipofuscinosis also contain large amounts of material that is identical to subunit c of ATP synthase. However, the protein is not present in storage bodies isolated from brains of patients affected with the infantile form of the disease, and these storage bodies contain other unidentified proteins. It is possible that the cause of ovine, juvenile and late infantile ceroid lipofuscinoses is related to a defect in degradation of the subunit c of mitochondrial ATP synthase.