Reports to date have led to the conclusion that there are isozymes for 5-aminolevulinate synthase in the liver and erythroid tissue of chicken. Indeed, the existence of a multigene family for chicken 5-aminolevulinate synthase has been proposed. We find no evidence to support these proposals. In this work we show that 5-aminolevulinate synthase mRNA from chicken liver and reticulocytes is identical as determined by RNase mapping and primer extension studies and that the 5-aminolevulinate synthase protein from these tissues is the same size as judged by immunoblot analysis. We also show that a single mRNA species for 5-aminolevulinate synthase is present in chicken liver, reticulocytes, brain, and heart and an avian erythroblastosis virus-transformed chicken erythroblast cell line. Southern analysis shows the presence of only one gene copy for 5-aminolevulinate synthase in the chicken haploid genome. Overall, these results lead to the conclusion that in chickens 5-aminolevulinate synthase is encoded by a unique gene and is expressed as a single mRNA species in all tissues.