Seven patients with mitochondrial encephalomyopathies were studied for peripheral neuropathy by clinical, electrophysiological and pathological examinations. The clinical manifestation of neuropathy varied from asymptomatic to mild and moderate sensorimotor symptoms with painful paresthesia. Five patients (2 with mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes, and 3 with myoclonic epilepsy and ragged-red fibers, MERRF) had clinical symptoms and signs of polyneuropathy associated mainly with decreased amplitudes of the compound muscle or nerve action potentials in an electrophysiological study indicating axonal degeneration. Sural nerve biopsy from 1 MERRF patient, also confirmed an axonal degeneration with reduction of large myelinated fibers. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the sural nerve from this patient showed a point mutation from A to G transition at the nucleotide position 8344 with 80% mtDNA mutation. The results of this study suggest that peripheral neuropathy is not uncommon in mitochondrial encephalomyopathies and is predominantly due to axonal degeneration.