Cytoplasts from patients with myoclonus epilepsy with ragged-red fibers harboring a pathogenic point mutation at either nucleotide 8344 or 8356 in the human mitochondrial tRNA(Lys) gene were fused with human cells lacking endogenous mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). For each mutation, cytoplasmic hybrid (cybrid) cell lines containing 0 or 100% mutated mtDNAs were isolated and their genetic, biochemical, and morphological characteristics were examined. Both mutations resulted in the same biochemical and molecular genetic phenotypes. Specifically, cybrids containing 100% mutated mtDNAs, but not those containing the corresponding wild-type mtDNAs, exhibited severe defects in respiratory chain activity, in the rates of protein synthesis, and in the steady-state levels of mitochondrial translation products. In addition, aberrant mitochondrial translation products were detected with both mutations. No significant alterations were observed in the processing of polycistronic RNA precursor transcripts derived from the region containing the tRNA(Lys) gene. These results demonstrate that two different mtDNA mutations in tRNA(Lys), both associated with the same mitochondrial disorder, result in fundamentally identical defects at the cellular level and strongly suggest that specific protein synthesis abnormalities contribute to the pathogenesis of myoclonus epilepsy with ragged-red fibers.