Abstract The mode of action of 16 peroxidizing herbicides belonging to four different families (diphenyl ethers, oxadiazon, pyridine derivatives, and pyrazole derivatives) has been studied in nonchlorophyllous soybean cell cultures. Whenever possible, we have compared active and inactive compounds. Phytotoxic effects were estimated on the basis of growth inhibition, either in the dark or in the light. Protoporphyrin IX accumulations were estimated in dark-treated samples, using a simple methodology. In all cases, we have found a positive correlation between cellular damages and protoporphyrin IX accumulations. The results provide further evidences in favor of the light-dependent activity of peroxidizing herbicides being due to their capacity to induce protoporphyrin IX accumulation.