To investigate the mechanism and sequence of formation of ring-shaped mitochondria in retinal pigment epithelial cells of a chick model of gyrate atrophy.Electron microscopic analysis of the ultrastructure of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) mitochondria was carried out in chicks injected intravitreally with formoguanamine regularly (every 4 days) over the first 2 weeks or 4 weeks post-hatching. Formoguanamine is a triazine drug which induces hyperornithinemic symptoms in the chick eye similar to those seen in human gyrate atrophy.A large population of irregularly shaped mitochondria was observed in the RPE of both peripheral and central retina. They showed extensive morphological changes. At 2 wk, the mitochondria appeared enlarged and abnormal in shape with vacuolisation, partial loss of their double membrane and reduced mitochondrial cristae. By 4 wk, the mitochondria had assumed a rounder, almost circular profile, many with central holes, so-called ring mitochondria.The appearance of ring-shaped mitochondria has been previously ascribed to the section of cupshaped three-dimensional structures. We present evidence that ring-shaped mitochondrial profiles arise through at least two different mechanisms of membrane breakdown and intraorganelle vacuolisation. The nature of the three dimensional structures of these abnormal mitochondria is re-examined.