Protoporphyrinogen oxidase is responsible for the seventh step in biosynthesis of protoporphyrin IX. This porphyrin is the precursor to hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in animals, and chlorophyll, the dye in plants. The enzyme catalyzes the dehydrogenation (removal of hydrogen atoms) of protoporphyrinogen IX (the product of the sixth step in the production of heme) to form protoporphyrin IX. One additional enzyme must modify protoporphyrin IX before it becomes heme. Inhibition of this enzyme is a strategy used in certain herbicides.
Variegate porphyria is caused by mutations in the PPOX gene. More than 100 mutations that can cause variegate porphyria have been identified in the PPOX gene. One mutation, a substitution of the amino acidtryptophan for arginine at position 59 (also written as Arg59Trp or R59W), is found in about 95 percent of South African families with variegate porphyria. Mutations in the PPOX gene reduce the activity of the enzyme made by the gene, allowing byproducts of heme production to build up in the body. This buildup, in combination with nongenetic factors (such as certain drugs, alcohol and dieting), causes this type of porphyria.
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