A range of new analogues of the promising iron chelator pyridoxal isonicotinoyl hydrazone was prepared and assessed for activity in reducing hepatocyte iron, mechanism of action and potential in iron-chelation therapy. A total of 45 compounds were synthesized by condensation of aromatic aldehydes (pyridoxal, salicylaldehyde and 2-hydroxy-1-naphthylaldehyde) with various acid hydrazides prepared by systematic substitutions on the benzene ring or by the replacement of the ring with an acetyl, pyridyl, furoyl or thiophene moiety. The effects of these compounds on 59Fe uptake and intracellular distribution in hepatocytes in culture and on 59Fe mobilization from prelabeled hepatocytes were assessed. Toxicity, lipophilicity and the ability to chelate plasma transferrin-bound 59Fe were also evaluated. Several compounds were much more active than pyridoxal isonicotinoyl hydrazone and may have clinical potential. These included pyridoxal benzoyl hydrazone, pyridoxal p-methoxybenzoyl hydrazone, pyridoxal m-fluorobenzoyl hydrazone and pyridoxal 2-pyridyl hydrazone. All were more effective at reducing iron uptake than mobilizing hepatocyte iron; they also may act primarily on the transit iron pool rather than on storage iron. Other compounds (e.g., salicylaldehyde p-t-butyl-benzoyl hydrazone) redistributed ferritin-59Fe to different intracellular sites but had little net effect on hepatocyte iron levels. (Hepatology 1992;15:492–501).