To evaluate possible matrilineal factors in the inheritance of Parkinson's disease, we prospectively identified families in which a parent and multiple siblings had Parkinson's disease. In each of the 5 families identified, the affected parent was the mother (p < 0.03). The age at onset in the offspring generation in these 5 families was younger than the age at onset in the parental generation (p < 0.001). In addition, the age at onset in all patients with an affected mother (n = 18) was younger than the age at onset in the affected mothers (p < 0.001). No difference was found between the age at onset in patients with an affected father (n = 14) and the age at onset in the affected fathers. These results are consistent with a role for inherited abnormalities of mitochondrial DNA in the pathogenesis of at least some cases of Parkinson's disease.