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UROD gene

uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase

Normal Function

The UROD gene provides instructions for making an enzyme known as uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase. This enzyme is involved in the production of a molecule called heme. Heme is vital for all of the body's organs, although it is most abundant in the blood, bone marrow, and liver. Heme is an essential component of iron-containing proteins called hemoproteins, including hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen in the blood).

The production of heme is a multi-step process that requires eight different enzymes. Uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase is responsible for the fifth step in this process, in which carbon and oxygen atoms are removed from uroporphyrinogen III (the product of the fourth step) to form coproporphyrinogen III. In subsequent steps, three other enzymes produce and modify compounds that ultimately lead to heme.

Health Conditions Related to Genetic Changes


Mutations in the UROD gene is responsible for two forms of porphyria, porphyria cutanea tarda and hepatoerythropoietic porphyria. Porphyria cutanea tarda is the most common type of porphyria; its signs and symptoms tend to be milder and appear later in life than those of hepatoerythropoietic porphyria. When a mutation occurs in one copy of the UROD gene in each cell, it increases the risk of developing porphyria cutanea tarda. (Multiple genetic and nongenetic factors contribute to this form of porphyria.) Mutations in both copies of the UROD gene in each cell cause hepatoerythropoietic porphyria.

More than 50 UROD gene mutations have been associated with porphyria cutanea tarda. These mutations reduce the activity of uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase by approximately 50 percent throughout the body. As a result, compounds called porphyrins build up to toxic levels in organs and tissues, starting in the liver. This buildup, in combination with nongenetic factors such as alcohol use, smoking, certain hormones, excess iron, and hepatitis C or HIV infections, leads to this type of porphyria.

At least 10 mutations in the UROD gene have been identified in people with hepatoerythropoietic porphyria. A few of these mutations have also been associated with porphyria cutanea tarda. Mutations that cause hepatoerythropoietic porphyria reduce the activity of uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase to less than 10 percent of normal. A shortage of this enzyme allows compounds called porphyrins to build up in the body. These compounds are formed during the normal process of heme production, but reduced activity of uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase allows them to accumulate to toxic levels. This abnormal buildup of porphyrins leads to the characteristic features of this type of porphyria.

More About This Health Condition

Other Names for This Gene

  • UD - Uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase
  • UPD
  • URO-D
  • Uroporphyrinogen III decarboxylase
  • Uroporphyrinogen-III carboxy-lyase

Additional Information & Resources

Tests Listed in the Genetic Testing Registry

Scientific Articles on PubMed

Catalog of Genes and Diseases from OMIM

Gene and Variant Databases


  • Badminton MN, Elder GH. Molecular mechanisms of dominant expression in porphyria. J Inherit Metab Dis. 2005;28(3):277-86. doi: 10.1007/s10545-005-8050-3. Citation on PubMed
  • Christiansen L, Brons-Poulsen J, Horder M, Brock A, Petersen NE. Expression and characterization of six clinically relevant uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase gene mutations. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2005;65(3):227-35. doi: 10.1080/00365510510013631. Citation on PubMed
  • Elder GH. Genetic defects in the porphyrias: types and significance. Clin Dermatol. 1998 Mar-Apr;16(2):225-33. doi: 10.1016/s0738-081x(97)00202-2. No abstract available. Citation on PubMed
  • Kauppinen R. Porphyrias. Lancet. 2005 Jan 15-21;365(9455):241-52. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17744-7. Citation on PubMed
  • Mendez M, Rossetti MV, De Siervi A, del Carmen Batlle AM, Parera V. Mutations in familial porphyria cutanea tarda: two novel and two previously described for hepatoerythropoietic porphyria. Hum Mutat. 2000 Sep;16(3):269-70. doi: 10.1002/1098-1004(200009)16:33.0.CO;2-#. Citation on PubMed
  • Mukerji SK. Haem biosynthesis and human porphyria cutanea tarda: effects of alcohol intake. Indian J Exp Biol. 2000 Jul;38(7):635-42. Citation on PubMed
  • Sassa S, Kappas A. Molecular aspects of the inherited porphyrias. J Intern Med. 2000 Feb;247(2):169-78. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2796.2000.00618.x. Citation on PubMed

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.