A new method of peptide analysis is presented which allows assignment of unknown proteins to coding regions of genomes which have been sequenced. This approach involves comparison of the molecular weights of peptides generated by partial proteolytic digestion with those predicted for a protein whose primary amino acid sequence is deduced from a corresponding nucleotide sequence. The proteolytic digestions are accomplished in situ in the stacking gel of a two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel system. We have used this system to show that two variant proteins of the human mitochondrial DNA, MV-1 and MV-2, are allelic and encoded by the unidentified reading frame 3 (URF 3) gene. This assignment was supported by sequence analysis of a clone of this mtDNA region from a HeLa cell line which expresses the uncommon variant MV-2. Four nucleotide changes were found in HeLa URF 3, relative to the reported sequence from human placenta. Two of these changes alter the primary amino acid sequence of the encoded protein. It is proposed that one of those amino acid changes may account for the observed molecular weight variation in MV-1 and MV-2 by proteolytic cleavage, conformational change, or secondary modification. We have used this method to also assign a mitochondrially translated protein to URF 6. These are the first assignments of mitochondrially synthesized polypeptides to human URF genes and prove conclusively that at least some of these genes are expressed in human cells.