Sideroblastic anaemia includes a heterogeneous group of rare conditions, characterized by decreased haem synthesis and mitochondrial iron overload, which are diagnosed by the presence of ringed sideroblasts in the bone marrow aspirate. The most frequent form is X-linked sideroblastic anaemia, caused by mutations of delta-aminolevulinic acid synthase 2 (ALAS2), the enzyme that catalyses the first and regulatory step of haem synthesis in erythroid precursors and is post-transcriptionally controlled by the iron regulatory proteins. Impaired haem production causes variable degrees of anaemia and mitochondrial iron accumulation as ringed sideroblasts. The heterogeneity and complexity of sideroblastic anaemia is explained by an increasing number of recognized molecular defects. New forms have been recognized as being linked to the deficient function of mitochondrial proteins involved in iron–sulphur cluster biogenesis, such as ABCB7 and GLRX5, which are extremely rare but represent important biological models. Local mitochondrial iron overload is present in all sideroblastic anaemias, whereas systemic iron overload occurs only in the forms because of primary or secondary deficiency of ALAS2.