Extensive complementation between fused mitochondria is indicated by recombination of 'parental' mitochondrial (mt) DNA (ref. 1,2) of yeast and plant cells. It has been difficult, however, to demonstrate the occurrence of complementation between fused mitochondria in mammalian species through the presence of recombinant mtDNA molecules, because sequence of mtDNA throughout an individual tends to be uniform owing to its strictly maternal inheritance. We isolated two types of respiration-deficient cell lines, with pathogenic mutations in mitochondrial tRNAIle or tRNALeu(UUR) genes from patients with mitochondrial diseases. The coexistence of their mitochondria within hybrids restored their normal morphology and respiratory enzyme activity by 10-14 days after fusion, indicating the presence of an extensive and continuous exchange of genetic contents between the mitochondria. This complementation between fused mitochondria may represent a defence of highly oxidative organelles against mitochondrial dysfunction caused by the accumulation of mtDNA lesions with age.