The clinical features of 66 patients with histologically defined mitochondrial myopathy are described. The age of onset of symptoms ranged from birth to 68 years, but was before 20 years in 61%. Nineteen patients had similarly affected relatives. Three groups of cases could be identified clinically: a combination of progressive external ophthalmoplegia and weakness of the limbs induced or increased by exertion (55%); such limb weakness alone (18%); and those with clinical features, such as ataxia, dementia, deafness, involuntary movements and seizures, predominantly or exclusively arising from the CNS (27%). There was considerable overlap between these groups, and pigmentary retinopathy, present in 36% of patients, occurred in all three. At a mean disease duration of twenty years, 9 patients (all from Group 3) were severely disabled but 42 were still able to work. In vitro studies of mitochondrial metabolism, performed in 33 cases, most commonly showed deficiencies of the mitochondrial respiratory chain localized to complex I (18 patients) or complex III (9). No typical clinical picture emerged for any of the identifiable biochemical defects.