Mutations of mitochondrial DNA have now been identified in the majority of patients with Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON). However, these mutations do not explain all the clinical features of LHON, and other pathogenetic factors are likely to be operating. We have analysed serum from 69 LHON patients and their relatives, 58 controls and 14 patients with ischemic or compressive optic neuropathy. A significant proportion of LHON patients had circulating antibodies to tubulin protein. This finding supports the theory that autoimmunity may play some role in the pathogenesis of LHON.