Colorectal tumors mostly arise from sporadic adenomatous polyps. Polyps are defined as a mass of cells that protrudes into the lumen of the colon. Adenomatous polyps are benign neoplasms that, by definition display some characteristics of dysplasia. It has been shown that polyps were benign tumors which may undergo malignant transformation. Adenomatous polyps have been classified into three histologic types; tubular, tubulovillous, and villous with increasing malignant potential. The ability to differentially diagnose these colorectal adenomatous polyps is important for therapeutic intervention. To date, little efforts have been directed to identifying genetic changes involved in adenomatous polyps. This study was designed to examine the relevance of mitochondrial genome alterations in the three adenomatous polyps. Using high resolution restriction endonucleases and PCR-based sequencing, fifty-seven primary fresh frozen tissues of adenomatous polyps (37 tumors and 20 matched surrounding normal tissues) obtained from the southern regional Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN) and Grady Memorial Hospital at Atlanta were screened with three mtDNA regional primer pairs that spanned 5.9 kbp. Results from our data analyses revealed the presence of forty-four variants in some of these mitochondrial genes that the primers spanned; COX I, II, III, ATP 6, 8, CYT b, ND 5, 6 and tRNAs. Based on the MITODAT database as a sequence reference, 25 of the 44 (57%) variants observed were unreported. Notably, a heteroplasmic variant C8515G/T in the MT-ATP 8 gene and a germline variant 8327delA in the tRNAlys was observed in all the tissue samples of the three adenomatous polyps in comparison to the referenced database sequence. A germline variant G9055A in the MT-ATP 6 gene had a frequency of 100% (17/17) in tubular and 57% (13/23) in villous adenomas; no corresponding variant was in tubulovillous adenomas. Furthermore, A9006G variant at MT-ATP 6 gene was observed at frequency of 57% (13/23) in villous adenomas only. Interestingly, variants A9006G and G9055A were absent in the villous tissue samples that were clinicopathological designated as "polyvillous adenomas". Our current data provide a basis for continued investigation of certain mtDNA variants as predictors of the three adenomatous polyps in a larger number of clinicopathological specimens. © 2010 Mehrabi et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.