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Porphyrins - Structure, Function, Formation and Neurological disease associated with it

Porphyrins are a group of organic compounds that are essential for various biological functions, including the production of heme, which is an important component of hemoglobin in red blood cells.


Porphyrins are a class of cyclic molecules composed of four pyrrole rings that are linked together. The structure of porphyrins is characterized by a central cavity that can bind to metal ions, such as iron, magnesium, or zinc, giving rise to metalloporphyrins.


Porphyrins play a crucial role in various biological processes, including oxygen transport, electron transfer, and catalysis. One of the most important functions of porphyrins is their role in the production of heme, which is an essential component of hemoglobin and myoglobin in red blood cells. Porphyrins are also involved in the synthesis of other important molecules, such as cytochromes, which are involved in electron transfer in the mitochondria, and chlorophyll, which is involved in photosynthesis.


Porphyrins are synthesized in a multi-step process that involves the enzymatic conversion of glycine and succinyl-CoA to form a linear tetrapyrrole intermediate. This intermediate is then cyclized and modified to produce different types of porphyrins, including protoporphyrin IX, which is a precursor to heme.

Neurological diseases associated with porphyrins: 

Porphyrin metabolism disorders, such as porphyria, can result in neurological symptoms due to the accumulation of porphyrin intermediates that are toxic to nerve cells. Acute attacks of porphyria can cause abdominal pain, seizures, and psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety and confusion. In addition, porphyria can cause peripheral neuropathy, which is characterized by numbness, tingling, and weakness in the limbs.

Furthermore, excess levels of porphyrins, such as protoporphyrin IX, can accumulate in certain neurological disorders, such as in erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), which is a genetic disorder that causes photosensitivity and liver damage due to the accumulation of protoporphyrin IX in the skin and liver. In the nervous system, protoporphyrin IX has been shown to accumulate in certain brain regions, such as the basal ganglia, and is thought to contribute to the neurological symptoms observed in EPP, including dystonia, tremor, and parkinsonism.

Overall, porphyrins play important roles in various biological processes, including those essential for proper neurological function. Dysregulation of porphyrin metabolism can lead to various neurological disorders and associated symptoms.