Polymorphism of mitochondrial DNA has been studied in two highland (Desulo, Tonara) and in two lowland (Galtellì, Orosei) Sardinian isolates, formerly subjected to different selective pressure due to malaria, and in 103 individuals from Northern Italy (Bergamo area), where malaria never appeared to be endemic. Two mitochondrial restriction endonuclease patterns (morphs) never described before have been found, one in the Bergamo and Orosei samples, and the other one only in Orosei. Four new mitochondrial types (mitotypes) due to different combinations of morphs have been identified; two of them have been found only in Sardinia, but with such a low frequency that they cannot be defined as typical Sardinian mitotypes. One mitotype (BamHI-morph 3, MspI-morph 4, AvaII-morph 9 and HaeII-morph 1) showed a significantly higher frequency in the highland rather than in the lowland Sardinian villages or in the Bergamo area. Since this mitotype has been found at a relatively high frequency in Central and Southern Italy, while it has been reported to be rare in Caucasians of Central European origin and absent in other ethnic groups (Africans, Chinese, Japanese and Israeli Jews), we suggest it may represent an ancient Mediterranean type. The analysis of these data suggests that drift or other evolutive forces different from malaria might be the major cause of mitochondrial DNA variation in Sardinia.