Mitochondrial (Mt) DNA from mitochondrial mutants of race s Podospora anserina and from senescent cultures of races s and A was examined. In mutants, we observed that fewer full length circles (31 mu) were present; instead, smaller circles characteristic for each mutant studied were found. Eco R1 digestion of these mutant MtDNAs indicated that in certain mutants, although specific fragments were absent, the total molecular weight of the fragments was not much different than wild-type. The properties of senescent MtDNA was strikingly different from either wild-type or mutant Mt DNA. First, a multimeric set of circular DNA was observed for both race s and A, with a monomeric repeat size of 0.89 mu. These circles ranged in size from 0.89 mu to greater than 20 mu; only one molecule out of some 200 molecules was thought to be of full length (31 mu). Density gradient analysis showed that there were two density species: a majority were at the same density as wild-type (1.694 g/cm3) and a second at 1.699 g/cm3. Most of the circular molecules from MtDNA isolated by either total DNA extraction or by extraction of DNA from isolated mitochondria were contained in the heavy DNA fraction. Eco R1 enzymatic digestion indicated that the light DNA had several fragments (amounting to about 23 x 10(6) daltons) missing, compared with young, wild-type MtDNA. Heavy senescent MtDNA was not cleaved by Eco R1. Analysis with Hae III restriction endonuclease showed also that light senescent MtDNA was missing certain fragments. Heavy MtDNA of average size 20 x 10(6) daltons, yielded only one fragment, 2,500 bp long, by digestion with Hae III restriction endonuclease. Digestion of heavy DNA with Alu I enzyme yielded 10 fragments totalling 2,570 bp. By three criteria, electron-microscopy, Eco R1 and Hae digestion, we conclude that the heavy MtDNA isolated from senescent cultures of Podospora anserina consisted of a monomeric tandemly repeating subunit of about 2,600 bp length. These results on the properties of senescent MtDNA are discussed with regard to the published properties of the rho- mutation in the yeast, S. cerevisiae.