Aminolevulinic acid (ALA)-mediated protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) production is being explored for tumor fluorescence imaging and photodynamic therapy (PDT). As a prodrug, ALA is converted in heme biosynthesis pathway to PpIX with fluorescent and photosensitizing properties. To better understand the role of heme biosynthesis enzymes in ALA-mediated PpIX fluorescence and PDT efficacy, we used lentiviral shRNA to silence the expression of porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS), porphobilinogen deaminase (PBGD) and ferrochelatase (FECH) in SkBr3 human breast cancer cells. PBGS and PBGD are the first two cytosolic enzymes involved in PpIX biosynthesis, and FECH is the enzyme responsible for converting PpIX to heme. PpIX fluorescence was examined by flow cytometry and confocal fluorescence microscopy. Cytotoxicity was assessed after ALA-mediated PDT. Silencing PBGS or PBGD significantly reduced ALA-stimulated PpIX fluorescence, whereas silencing FECH elevated basal and ALA-stimulated PpIX fluorescence. However, compared with vector control cells, the ratio of ALA-stimulated fluorescence to basal fluorescence without ALA was significantly reduced in all knockdown cell lines. PBGS or PBGD knockdown cells exhibited significant resistance to ALA-PDT, while increased sensitivity to ALA-PDT was found in FECH knockdown cells. These results demonstrate the importance of PBGS, PBGD and FECH in ALA-mediated PpIX fluorescence and PDT efficacy.