We report a previously unappreciated property of the signals that target organelle-specific proteins to their subcellular sites of action. Such targeting sequences are shown to be polymorphic. We discovered this polymorphism when we cloned the mitochondrial manganese-containing superoxide dismutase from cell lines of normal individuals and patients with genetic diseases of premature aging and compared their sequences to each other and to those previously reported. The polymorphism consists of a single nucleotide change in the region of the DNA that encodes the signal sequence such that either an alanine or valine is present. Subsequently, eight cell lines were analyzed and all three possible combinations of the two signal sequences were observed. Such signal sequence polymorphisms could result in diseases of distribution, where essential proteins are not properly targeted, thereby leading to absolute or relative deficiencies of critical enzymes within specific cellular compartments. Progeria and related syndromes may be diseases of distribution.