The heme precursor 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), acting as a prooxidant, has been proposed to underlie the clinical manifestations of various porphyric disorders. Accordingly, ALA-generated oxyradicals where shown to cause oxidative lesions in biomolecules and isolated cell organelles and to release iron from ferritin. In rats, administered ALA triggered oxidative stress in liver, brain and red muscles. We now study the correlation between the plasma antioxidant capacity and tissue oxidative damage, after acute (one and two doses) and prolonged (eight doses) ALA treatment of rats (one dose of ALA = 40 mg/kg body weight). The in situ spontaneous chemiluminescence intensity increased 5-fold in brain, 50% in liver and 4-fold in soleus muscle upon two dose-treatment, indicating tissue response to oxidative injury by ALA. Chemiluminescence reached the highest intensity after one or two doses of ALA and decreased after eight doses in all tissues. The plasma trapping capacity, evaluated by the luminol/2-amidinopropane system, gave a parallel response: maximum values after two doses and decreased values after prolonged treatment. After eight doses, the ALA concentration was found to be 3-fold above the normal value in plasma, 48% higher in liver and 38% higher in total brain. These data indicate that the plasma antioxidant system responds to ALA treatment and is correlated with tissue chemiluminescence. In vitro studies showed that ALA does not interfere with the antioxidant plasma capacity, neither promoting oxidation of plasma elements nor binding to plasma proteins.