Allosteric inhibition of human lymphoblast and purified porphobilinogen deaminase by protoporphyrinogen and coproporphyrinogen. A possible mechanism for the acute attack of variegate porphyria

J Clin Invest. 1993 Apr;91(4):1436-44. doi: 10.1172/JCI116348.


Variegate porphyria (VP) is characterized by photocutaneous lesions and acute neuropsychiatric attacks. Decreased protoporphyrinogen oxidase activity results in accumulation of protoporphyrin (ogen) IX and coproporphyrin (ogen) III. During acute attacks delta-aminolevulinic acid and porphobilinogen also increase, suggesting that porphobilinogen deaminase (PBG-D) may be rate limiting. We have examined the effects of porphyrinogens accumulating in VP on PBG-D activity in Epstein-Barr virus-transformed lymphoblast sonicates from 12 VP and 12 control subjects. Protoporphyrinogen oxidase activity was decreased and protoporphyrin increased in VP lymphoblasts. PBG-D in control lymphoblasts obeyed Michaelis-Menten kinetics (Vmax 28.7 +/- 1.8 pmol/mg per h, Hill coefficient 0.83 +/- 0.07). VP sonicates yielded sigmoidal substrate-velocity curves that did not obey Michaelis-Menten kinetics. Vmax was decreased (21.2 +/- 2.0 pmol/mg per h) and the Hill coefficient was 1.78 +/- 0.17. Addition of protoporphyrinogen IX and coproporphyrinogen III to control sonicates yielded sigmoidal PBG-D substrate-velocity curves and decreased PBG-D Vmax. Addition of porphyrins or uroporphyrinogen III did not affect PBG-D activity. Removal of endogenous porphyrin (ogens) from VP sonicates restored normal PBG-D kinetics. Purified human erythrocyte PBG-D obeyed Michaelis-Menten kinetics (Vmax 249 +/- 36 nmol/mg per h, Km 8.9 +/- 1.5 microM, Hill coefficient 0.93 +/- 0.14). Addition of protoporphyrinogen yielded a sigmoidal curve with decreased Vmax. The Hill coefficient approached 4. These findings provide a rational explanation for the increased delta-aminolevulinic acid and porphobilinogen during acute attacks of VP.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Coproporphyrinogens / pharmacology*
  • Dextrans
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylbilane Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Hydroxymethylbilane Synthase / isolation & purification
  • Hydroxymethylbilane Synthase / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • Lymphocytes / enzymology*
  • Porphyrias, Hepatic / enzymology*
  • Porphyrias, Hepatic / pathology
  • Porphyrins / analysis
  • Protoporphyrins / pharmacology*
  • Uroporphyrinogens / pharmacology


  • Coproporphyrinogens
  • Dextrans
  • Porphyrins
  • Protoporphyrins
  • Uroporphyrinogens
  • coproporphyrinogen III
  • protoporphyrinogen
  • sephadex
  • Hydroxymethylbilane Synthase