The neuropathological findings in 2 patients with Kearns-Sayre syndrome and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) rearrangements, one a predominant deletion and the other a predominant duplication, were remarkably similar, showing diffuse vacuolation of white matter. There were some of the pathological features of Leigh's syndrome in the spinal cord of the patient with a duplication. In the patient with a predominant deletion, rearranged mtDNA was undetectable in blood, spleen, and testis, and present in highest amounts in muscle and the brain, but relatively low in cerebellum, reflecting the ratio seen, albeit in much smaller amounts, in normal aged brains. MtDNA rearrangements in this patient were largely deletions or deletion dimers; duplicated mtDNA was present in only trace amounts in some tissues and there was none in skeletal muscle. The patient with a predominant duplication of mtDNA had higher amounts of rearranged mtDNA in blood (mainly duplicated) than muscle (mainly deleted). Correlation of these data with tissue dysfunction is probably complicated by the replicative behaviour of deleted, duplicated and normal mtDNA.