Skeletal muscles from a mother and her daughter both with chronic progressive ophthalmoplegia were analyzed. Histological and biochemical analyses of their muscle samples showed typical features of this type of mitochondrial myopathy. Southern blot analysis revealed that, in both patients, there were two species of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA): normal one and partially deleted one. The sizes of the deletion were different; the mutant mtDNAs from the mother and the daughter had about 2.5- and 5-kilobase deletions, respectively. The two mutant mtDNAs shared a common deleted region of 1.2-kilobase. However, both the start and the end of deletion were different between them, implying a novel mode of inheritance. This is the first report that the mutant mtDNA is responsible for the maternal inheritance of a human disease.