The porphyrias.Diabete Metab. 1979 Dec; 5(4):323-36.DM
The heterogeneous group of diseases called the porphyrias may all be characterised by derangement of specific stages in the haem biosynthetic pathway. In the acute porphyrias; acute intermittent porphyria, urophorphyrinogen 1 synthase, hereditary coproporphyria, coproporphyrinogen oxidase and variegate porphyria, ferrochelatase or protoporphyrinogen oxidase, are the enzymes affected, whilst in the non acute porphyrias, cutaneous hepatic porphyria, uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase, congenital porphyria, uroporphyrinogen cosynthase; and erythropoietic protoporphyria; ferrochelatase are the enzymes affected. In each of the porphyrias, the activity of the initial and rate controlling enzyme of the pathway, delta-aminolaevulinic acid synthase is raised which constitutes the principal control point of the pathway. Secondary control in each of these diseases lies at the leve of uroporphyrinogen 1 synthase. As a consequence of this secondary control, there is excessive excretion of the porphyrin precursors delta-aminolaevulinic acid and porphobilinogen in the acute porphyrias and excessive excretion of porphyrins leading to solar photosensitivity in the non-acute porphyrias and in variegate and hereditary coproporphyria. There are a number of secondary metabolic aspects in the porphyrias, such as the role of steroid metabolism; the influence of drugs in the potentiation of attacks; and the potential for the pathway to branch at stages prior to porphyrin formation which result in the synthesis of various monopyrroles. The therapy of the two groups of porphyrias are quite different. Prophylaxis is important in both types but is particularly important in the avoidance of various drugs in the acute porphyrias. The acute attack may be specifically treated with carbohydrates, beta-blockers and haematin. Cutaneous hepatic porphyria may be treated by venesection, erythropoietic protoporphyria with beta caratene whilst congenital porphyria may be improved by splenectomy and chloroquine therapy.