Populations of quail and chicken cells were treated with ethidium bromide, an inhibitor of mitochondrial DNA replication. After long-term exposure to the drug, the cell populations were transferred to ethidium bromide (EtdBr)-free medium, and cloned. Clones HCF7 (quail) and DUS-3 (chicken) were propagated for more than a year, and then characterized. Analysis of total cellular DNA extracted from these cells revealed no characteristic mitochondrial DNA molecule by Southern blot hybridization of HindIII- or AvaI-digested total cellular DNA probed with cloned mitochondrial DNA fragments. Reconstruction experiments, where a small number of parental cells was mixed with HCF7 cells and DUS-3 cells before extraction of total cellular DNA, further strengthen the notion that the drug-treated cells are devoid of mitochondrial DNA molecules. The cell populations were found to proliferate at a moderately reduced growth rate as compared to their respective parents, to be auxotrophic for uridine, and to be stably resistant to the growth inhibitory effect of EtdBr and chloramphenicol. At the ultrastructural level, mitochondria were considerably enlarged and there was a severe reduction in the number of cristae within the organelles and loss of cristae orientation. Morphometric analysis revealed a fourfold increase of the mitochondrial profile area along with a twofold decrease of the numerical mitochondrial profiles. Analysis of biochemical parameters indicated that the cells grew with mitochondria devoid of a functional respiratory chain. The activity of the mitochondrial enzyme dihydroorotate dehydrogenase was decreased by 95% and presumably accounted for uridine auxotrophy.