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FASEB J. 2008 Jan;22(1):64-73. Epub 2007 Aug 21.

RhAG protein of the Rhesus complex is a CO2 channel in the human red cell membrane.

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Abt. Vegetative Physiologie Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, 30623-Hannover, Germany.


We have determined CO2 permeabilities, P(CO2), of red cells of normal human blood and of blood deficient in various blood group proteins by a previously described mass spectrometric technique. While P(CO2) of normal red cells is approximately 0.15 cm/s, we find in red blood cells (RBCs) lacking the Rh protein complex (Rh(null)) a significantly reduced P(CO2) of 0.07 cm/s +/-0.02 cm/s (P<0.02). This value is similar to the value we have reported previously for RBCs lacking aquaporin-1 protein (AQP-1(null)), suggesting that each of the Rh and AQP-1 proteins is responsible for approximately 1/2 of the normal CO2 permeability of the RBC membrane. Four other blood group deficiencies tested lack diverse membrane proteins but exhibit normal CO2 permeability. The CO2 pathway constituted by Rh proteins was inhibitable at pH(e)= 7.4 by NH4Cl with an I50 of approximately 10 mM corresponding to an I50 for NH3 of approximately 0.3 mM. The pathway independent of Rh proteins, presumably that constituted by AQP-1, was not inhibitable by NH4Cl/NH3. However, both pathways were strongly inhibited by DIDS, which accounts for the marked inhibitory effect of DIDS on normal P(CO2), while in contrast another AE1 inhibitor, DiBAC, does not inhibit P(CO2), although it markedly reduces P(HCO3-). We conclude that Rh protein, presumably the Rh-associated glycoprotein RhAG, possesses a gas channel that allows passage of CO2 in addition to NH3.

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