Isolated mitochondrial outer membrane vesicles (OMV) are a suitable system for studying various functions of the mitochondrial outer membrane. For studies on mitochondrial lipid import as well as for studies on the role of lipids in processes occurring in the outer membrane, knowledge of the phospholipid composition of the outer membrane is indispensable. Recently, a mild subfractionation procedure was described for the isolation of highly purified OMV from mitochondria of Neurospora crassa (Mayer, A., Lill, R. and Neupert, W. (1993) J. Cell Biol. 121, 1233-1243). This procedure, which consists of swelling and mechanical disruption of mitochondria followed by two steps of sucrose density gradient centrifugation, was adapted for the isolation of OMV from rat liver mitochondria. Using the appropriate enzyme markers it is shown that the resulting OMV are obtained in a yield of 25%, and that their purity is superior to that of previous OMV preparations. Analysis of the phospholipid composition of the OMV showed that phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol are the major phospholipid constituents, and that cardiolipin is only present in trace amounts. The phospholipid composition is very similar to that of the highly purified OMV from mitochondria of Neurospora crassa, although the latter still contain a small amount of cardiolipin.