The effect of glyphosate [N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine] on barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and corn (Zea mays L.) shoot δ-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) production was examined by monitoring ALA content in the tissue and measuring incorporation of 14C precursors into ALA and chlorophyll a. Barley shoot ALA content was significantly decreased by 1 mM glyphosate after 9, 11, and 15 h of illumination. ALA production by treated barley shoots was 30 nmoles•g fresh weight-1•h-1 at each interval tested, compared with 75 to 120 nmoles•g fresh weight-1•h-1 for the control. In corn shoots, ALA content was reduced 32, 45, and 58% by 0.1, 1.0, and 10.0 mM glyphosate, respectively, after 12 h illumination. Incorporation studies with 14C-glutamate, 14C-α-ketoglutarate, and 14C-glycine into ALA showed a 77, 92, and 91% inhibition, respectively, in barley shoots treated with 1 mM glyphosate. Incorporation of 14C-ALA into chlorophyll a was not affected by 1 mM glyphosate. Thus, the site of action of glyphosate may involve two enzyme pathways:one controlling the conversion of α-ketoglutarate to ALA, and the other controlling the condensation of glycine with succinyl CoA to form ALA and carbon dioxide. Inhibition of ALA synthesis blocks synthesis of chlorophyll, as well as all other porphyrin ring compounds found in higher plants. Thus, inhibition of ALA synthesis may be an integral component of the herbicidal mode of action of glyphosate.