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Mammalian mitochondrial DNA encodes 37 essential genes required for ATP production via oxidative phosphorylation, instability or misregulation of which is associated with human diseases and aging. Other than the mtDNA-encoded RNA species (13 mRNAs, 12S and 16S rRNAs, and 22 tRNAs), the remaining factors needed for mitochondrial gene expression (i.e., transcription, RNA processing/modification, and translation), including a dedicated set of mitochondrial ribosomal proteins, are products of nuclear genes that are imported into the mitochondrial matrix. Herein, we inventory the human mitochondria gene expression machinery, and, while doing so, we highlight specific associations of these regulatory factors with human disease. Major new breakthroughs have been made recently in this burgeoning area that set the stage for exciting future studies on the key outstanding issue of how mitochondrial gene expression is regulated differentially in vivo. This should promote a greater understanding of why mtDNA mutations and dysfunction cause the complex and tissue-specific pathology characteristic of mitochondrial disease states and how mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to more common human pathology and aging. Environ. Mol. Mutagen. 51:360-379, 2010.