Genetic heterogeneity in erythropoietic protoporphyria: a study of the enzymatic defect in nine affected families

J Invest Dermatol. 1990 Sep;95(3):260-3. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12484876.


Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) is associated with a deficiency of protohaem ferrolyase. We have used a novel assay for this enzyme based on its ability to utilize zinc as a substrate to investigate the inheritance of EPP in nine affected families. Zinc chelatase activity was markedly reduced in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 14 EPP patients (mean, 3.3 nmol Zn protohaem/h/mg protein; range, 0.3-8.0) when compared with 41 controls (16.8 +/- 3.6) p less than 0.01. In three families with parent-to-child transmission of disease, the asymptomatic parent had an enzymatic activity within the normal range. In three pedigrees where the parents were asymptomatic, enzymatic activities were below the 95% confidence limits in both. Zinc chelatase activity was below the mean control value in 17 of the 18 parents in nine affected pedigrees, and six of seven asymptomatic offspring of patients with protoporphyria. The findings suggest that EPP is not transmitted as a simple dominant trait and that inheritance of more than one gene may be required for disease expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology
  • Female
  • Ferrochelatase / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Porphyrias / enzymology
  • Porphyrias / genetics*
  • Porphyrins / blood*
  • Protoporphyrins / blood*


  • Porphyrins
  • Protoporphyrins
  • Ferrochelatase