A variety of prophyrinogenic compounds were tested for their effect in ovo on chick-embryo liver microsomal cytochrome P-450 haem concentration and mitochondrial delta-aminolaevulinate synthase activity. With all drugs tested, there was a 30—50% decrease in cytochrome P-450 haem concentration within 1 h of treatment, and this was closely followed by an increase in delta-aminolaevulinate synthase activity. The relationship was independent of the extent of enzyme induction and is consistent with the proposal that drug-mediated destruction of cytochrome P-450 haem is the primary mechanism of induction of delta-aminolaevulinate synthase. After induction, synthesis of delta-aminolaevulinate synthase could be maintained by inhibiting further haem synthesis. These studies suggest that induction of porphyria is a combination of two distinct processes: (a) induction of delta-aminolaevulinate synthase synthesis by destruction of cytochrome P-450 haem and consequent depletion of cellular free haem; (b) maintenance of continued delta-aminolaevulinate synthase synthesis by preventing replenishment of cellular haem either by inhibiting haem synthesis and/or by promoting continuous removal of newly synthesized haem.

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