We examined two muscle biopsy specimens from a proband and her mother with myoclonus epilepsy with ragged-red fibers (MERRF), both obtained at an interval of about 10 years, using histochemistry, in situ hybridization, and single-fiber polymerase chain reaction. Total (wild-type and mutant) mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) were greatly increased in ragged-red fibers (RRF) over non-RRF in all muscle specimens analyzed. The proportion of mutant mtDNA was also significantly higher in RRF than in non-RRF. By comparing the first and second muscle biopsied specimens in each patient, we found that while the proportion of RRF, cytochrome coxidase deficient fibers, and mutant DNA in muscle changed over a 10-year period, the proportion of wild-type and mutant mtDNAs in RRF and in non-RRF was similar between the two specimens. These results suggest that the ratio of wild-type to mutant mtDNAs in RRF and non-RRF in MERRF is at a steady state level in each muscle fiber, without replicative advantage of mutant mtDNA.