The authors report the clinical features and the results of genetic and biochemical studies of a child affected by ND1/3460 Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy, who demonstrates a persistent visual recovery after protracted monitoring. A 10-year-old male suffered from a severe right visual impairment that was incidentally detected. Within 2 months the left eye was also seriously involved, and visual acuity worsened to 20/300 in both eyes, associated with bilateral cecocentral scotomas and dyschromatopsia. During the following months a progressive visual improvement occurred, and 2 years later the visual acuity was 20/20 OU. After 9 years of follow-up the clinical status is unchanged. The mutation at np ND1/3460 was found to be virtually homoplasmic in the proband's mtDNA, which was extracted either from platelets or leukocytes, whereas the mother and the sister tested heteroplasmic for the same mutation. The specific activity of complex I in platelets was reduced in the proband and normal in his relatives. An abnormal resistance of NADH:ubiquinone reductase to the inhibitory effect of rotenone was found in platelet mitochondria from the proband and family members and was consistent with the degree of heteroplasmy. This pattern of biochemical abnormalities suggests a cumulative effect of the increasing percentage of mutated mtDNA on complex I function, which involves the interaction between complex I and its substrate ubiquinone in the heteroplasmic condition (asymptomatic state), and the catalytic function of complex I, as mutated mDNA turns toward the homoplasmic condition (symptomatic state).