Administration of Sn-protoporphyrin to Gunn rats that are characterized by a genetically determined absence of UDP-glucuronyl transferase activity for bilirubin, 24-30 h after birth, prevented the marked increase in serum bilirubin concentration that occurs in these animals in the postnatal period. A second administration of Sn-protoporphyrin at day 6 maintained serum bilirubin levels in the neonates at the initial level for an additional 6 d. In contrast, in untreated Gunn neonates, serum bilirubin levels increased substantially as expected during the immediate 2-wk period after birth. Studies in adult Gunn rats demonstrated that Sn-protoporphyrin administration diminished biliary bilirubin output, decreased tissue heme oxygenase activity, and did not alter hepatic cytochrome P450 levels. These findings raise the possibility that Sn-protoporphyrin may prove clinically useful in maintaining low levels of serum bilirubin in congenitally jaundiced individuals, such as patients with the Crigler-Najjar syndrome.

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