A molecular analysis of morphs found in a previous survey of mtDNA restriction enzyme polymorphisms in Italy revealed that different site changes can give similar patterns and that the same mutation can yield variant morphs for apparently unrelated enzymes. 1. Alternative site variations were found to yield restriction fragment patterns resembling HpaI morph 4, HaeII morph 5 and AvaII morph 2. 2. A strong association was observed between the BamHI morph 3 (gain of site a) and the AvaII morph 9 and its derivatives (loss of site d). This association appears to result from an A to G transition at base pair (bp) 13,368 which simultaneously creates a new BamHI site and abolishes an AvaII site. On the other hand, the loss of the AvaII site d, which in Italy was only found in the above-mentioned association, does not always produce a new BamHI site, as observed in other Caucasian groups. Similarly, the BamHI morph 2 (gain of site b) was always found to be associated with AvaII morphs lacking site f. An A to G transition at bp 16,391 was shown to account for both changes. As in the previous case, the converse is not true. Hence, these data show that AvaII sites d and f were lost in more than one way and one of these seems to be typical of Caucasians. 3. The variation producing BamHI-3/AvaII-9 and derivatives is preferentially associated with MspI morph 4 but this is not a product of a shared mutation. Hence, this association must be the result of the linkage disequilibrium due to the maternal inheritance of mtDNA and lack of recombination. 4. The high frequency of the combination BamHI-3/AvaII-9 and derivatives with MspI-4 found in Italy (29 subjects out of 229 analysed) can best be explained by diffusion of the relevant haplotype rather than by repeated mutational events. 5. The phylogeny trees of all mtDNA morphs so far described and of mtDNA types in Caucasians have been revised taking into account both the inter- and the intra-morph heterogeneity detected by this analysis.