Porphyrins are a group of organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

s, many naturally occurring. One of the best-known porphyrins is heme
A heme or haem is a prosthetic group that consists of an iron atom contained in the center of a large heterocyclic organic ring called a porphyrin. Not all porphyrins contain iron, but a substantial fraction of porphyrin-containing metalloproteins have heme as their prosthetic group; these are...

, the pigment in red blood cell
Blood cell
A blood cell, also called a hematocyte, is a cell normally found in blood. In mammals, these fall into three general categories:* red blood cells — Erythrocytes* white blood cells — Leukocytes* platelets — Thrombocytes...

s; heme is a cofactor
Cofactor (biochemistry)
A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound that is bound to a protein and is required for the protein's biological activity. These proteins are commonly enzymes, and cofactors can be considered "helper molecules" that assist in biochemical transformations....

 of the protein hemoglobin. Porphyrins are heterocyclic macrocycle
A macrocycle is, as defined by IUPAC, "a cyclic macromolecule or a macromolecular cyclic portion of a molecule." In the chemical literature, organic chemists may consider any molecule containing a ring of nine or more atoms to be a macrocycle...

s composed of four modified pyrrole
Pyrrole is a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound, a five-membered ring with the formula C4H4NH. It is a colourless volatile liquid that darkens readily upon exposure to air. Substituted derivatives are also called pyrroles, e.g., N-methylpyrrole, C4H4NCH3...

 subunits interconnected at their α carbon atoms via methine
In chemistry, methine is a trivalent functional group CH, derived formally from methane. The methine group consists of a carbon atom bound by two single bonds and one double bond, where one of the single bonds is to a hydrogen...

 bridges (=CH-). Porphyrins are aromatic
In organic chemistry, Aromaticity is a chemical property in which a conjugated ring of unsaturated bonds, lone pairs, or empty orbitals exhibit a stabilization stronger than would be expected by the stabilization of conjugation alone. The earliest use of the term was in an article by August...

. That is, they obey Hückel's rule
Hückel's rule
In organic chemistry, Hückel's rule estimates whether a planar ring molecule will have aromatic properties. The quantum mechanical basis for its formulation was first worked out by physical chemist Erich Hückel in 1931...

 for aromaticity, possessing 4n+2 π electrons (n=4 for the shortest cyclic path) delocalized over the macrocycle.