We report the clinical, biochemical, and molecular genetic findings in a family with an unusual mitochondrial disease phenotype harboring a novel mtDNA tRNA glutamic acid mutation at position 14709. The proband and his sister presented with congenital myopathy and mental retardation and subsequently developed cerebellar ataxia. Other family members had either adult-onset diabetes mellitus with muscle weakness or adult-onset diabetes mellitus alone. Ragged-red and cytochrome c oxidase (COX)-negative fibers were present in muscle biopsies. Biochemical studies of muscle mitochondria showed reduced complex I and IV activities. The mtDNA mutation was heteroplasmic in blood and muscle in all matrilineal relatives analyzed. Primary myoblast, but not fibroblast, cultures containing high proportions of mutant mtDNA exhibited impaired mitochondrial translation. These observations indicate that mtDNA tRNA point mutations should be considered in the differential diagnosis of congenital myopathy. In addition they illustrate the diversity of phenotypes associated with this mutation in the same family and further highlight the association between mtDNA mutations and diabetes mellitus.