The complete sequence of the 16,295 bp mouse L cell mitochondrial DNA genome has been determined. Genes for the 12S and 16S ribosomal RNAs; 22 tRNAs; cytochrome c oxidase subunits I, II and III; ATPase subunit 6; cytochrome b; and eight unidentified proteins have been located. The genome displays exceptional economy of organization, with tRNA genes interspersed between rRNA and protein-coding genes with zero or few noncoding nucleotides between coding sequences. Only two significant portions of the genome, the 879 nucleotide displacement-loop region containing the origin of heavy-strand replication and the 32 nucleotide origin of light-strand replication, do not encode a functional RNA species. All of the remaining nucleotide sequence serves as a defined coding function, with the exception of 32 nucleotides, of which 18 occur at the 5' ends of open reading frames. Mouse mitochondrial DNA is unique in that the translational start codon is AUN, with any of the four nucleotides in the third position, whereas the only translational stop codon is the orthodox UAA. The mouse mitochondrial DNA genome is highly homologous in overall sequence and in gene organization to human mitochondrial DNA, with the descending order of conserved regions being tRNA genes; origin of light-strand replication; rRNA genes; known protein-coding genes; unidentified protein-coding genes; displacement-loop region.