The aggregations of protoporphyrin IX and haematoporphyrin IX in aqueous solutions were studied by fluorimetric techniques. Porphyrin concentrations were limited to 0.001-0.1 microM and 0.01-1 microM for protoporphyrin and haematoporphyrin respectively, where dimerization is the dominant aggregation process. The dimerization equilibrium constants (at 25 degrees C, neutral pH, 50 mM-Tris/HCl buffer) were determined to be 3 X 10(7) M and 4 X 10(5) M for the proto and the haemato derivatives respectively. The fluorescence intensity of a given protoporphyrin solution (within the range indicated above) was markedly decreased by salts in the system, over the salt concentration range 0.1-7 mM at constant ionic strength, in the sequence CaCl2 greater than MgCl2 greater than KCl greater than NaCl. The direction of this effect, fluorescence quenching, suggests that these salts promote an increase in aggregation. The differences in the magnitudes of the effect, among different salt species sharing a common anion, at constant ionic strength, imply that the effect is cation-specific. In contrast, the fluorescence intensity of a given solution of haematoporphyrin (within the range indicated above) was unaffected by these salts, under similar concentrations, nor was it sensitive to the total buffer concentration, or to the type of buffer in the system.