The autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias (ADCA) are a group of neurodegenerative disorders with ataxia and dysarthria as early and dominant signs. In ADCA type II, retinal degeneration causes severe visual impairment. ADCA type II has recently been mapped to chromosome 3p by three independent groups. In the family with ADCA type II studied here, the disease has been mapped to chromosome 3p12-p21.1. Histochemical examination of muscle biopsies in 5 cases showed slight neurogenic atrophy and irregular lobulated appearance or focal decreases of enzyme activity when staining for NADH dehydrogenase, succinic dehydrogenase and cytochrome oxidase. Ragged-red fibres were scarce. Electron microscopic examination showed uneven distribution of mitochondria with large fibre areas devoid of mitochondria and/or large subsarcolemmal accumulations of small rounded mitochondria, and frequent autophagic vacuoles. These vacuoles contained remnants of multiple small rounded organelles, possibly mitochondria, and had a remarkably consistent ultrastructural appearance. Biochemical investigation of mitochondrial function showed reduced activity of complex IV and slightly reduced activity of complex I in the respiratory chain in a severely affected child while no abnormalities were found in his affected uncle.