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We have examined an aging population of Caenorhabditis elegans via a PCR assay to determine if deletions in the mitochondrial genome occur in the nematode. We detected eight such deletions, identified the breakpoints of four of these, and discovered direct repeats of 4-8 base pairs at the site of all four deletions. Six of the eight repeats involved in the deletions are located in or immediately adjacent to tRNAs. Without a biochemical bias, the probability of direct repeats being present at all four breakpoints was 4 x 10(-6).