Concentration-dependent induction of cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) and intracellular porphyrin accumulation were observed following treatment of chicken embryo hepatocyte (CEH) cultures with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran (TCDF), 3,3',4,4'-tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 77, IUPAC nomenclature), 2,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 118), 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 126), 3,3',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB 169), and a commercial mixture of PCBs (Aroclor 1254). For these halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs), or mixture, maximal CYP1A activity [measured as ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity] and immunodetectable protein were observed at concentrations just prior to, or coincident with, the concentrations at which porphyrin accumulation became evident. Both immunodetectable CYP1A protein and catalytic activity decreased at high concentrations of these compounds, but the rate and extent of decrease of immunodetectable CYP1A protein varied. Time-course studies with PCB 77 indicated a decrease in potency and an increase in maximal CYP1A induction between 24 and 48 hr of exposure which may indicate in vitro metabolism of this HAH. Intracellular accumulation of total porphyrins without CYP1A induction, was observed for 2,2',5,5'-tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 52), 2,2',6,6'-tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 54), 2,2',3,5',6-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 95), 2,2',4,5,5'-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 101), 2,2',3,3',6,6'-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB 136), and 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB 153). Overall, these results are consistent with a role for CYP1A induction and/or Ah receptor activation in porphyrin accumulation mediated by HAHs with a planar configuration, whereas those that are not planar may mediate porphyrin accumulation by a mechanism not involving induction of CYP1A.