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Semin Hematol. 2004 Apr;41(2):93-117.

Red blood cell blood group antigens: structure and function.

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  • 1Laboratology of Immunology and the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute, New York Blood Center, 310 E. 67th Street, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Red blood cell (RBC) blood group antigens are polymorphic, inherited, carbohydrate or protein structures located on the extracellular surface of the RBC membrane. They contribute to the architecture of the RBC membrane, and their individual function(s) are being slowly revealed. The biological qualities assigned to these RBC membrane structures are based on observed physiological alteration in RBCs that lack the component, by documenting similarities in its protein sequence (predicted from the nucleotide sequence of the gene) to proteins of known function and by extrapolation to identified functional homologues in other cells. The varied roles of RBC antigens include membrane structural integrity, the transport of molecules through the membrane, as receptors for extracellular ligands, adhesion molecules, enzymes, complement components and regulators, and in glycocalyx formation.

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