Ornithine delta aminotransferase (OAT) (EC 188.8.131.52) is a pyridoxal-5 phosphate dependent mitochondrial matrix enzyme. It controls the L-ornithine (Orn) level in tissues by catalysing the transfer of the delta amino group of Orn to 2-oxoglutarate. The products of this reaction are L-glutamate gama semialdehyde and L-glutamate. Among the compounds known to inhibit (or inactivate) OAT, only L-canaline and (SS)-5-(fluoromethyl)ornithine [(SS)-5FMOrn] are selective for OAT. Treatment of laboratory animals with 5FMOrn causes a dramatic accumulation of Orn in most tissues and organs, and the enhanced formation of urea due to saturation of ornithine carbamoyltransferase with its substrate. The enhancement of urea formation by increased endogenous levels of Orn is comparable with that produced by large doses of Orn and arginine, a treatment known to enhance the detoxification of ammonia. However, protection to lethal doses of ammonium salts by exogenous Orn is rapidly fading. In contrast, inactivation of OAT by a small dose of 5FMOrn renders a long-lasting protective effect against various forms of hyperammonemic states. Among these the reduction of ammonia concentrations in blood and tissues, and the reduction of the pathologic excretion of orotic acid to normal levels in mice with hereditary defects of the urea cycle, were most impressive. In human hereditary OAT deficiency the elevated intraocular concentrations of Orn are considered to be a cause of gyrate atrophy. This is presumably the reason, why OAT has not been considered as a therapeutically useful target. Chronic inactivation of OAT by repeated administration of 5FMOrn, caused elevated intraocular Orn concentrations, but this treatment had no effect on the function and histology of the visual system, or the behaviour of adult mice. The confirmation of this and related observations in higher species will show, whether OAT inactivation has potentials in the treatment of hyperammonemic states.