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Transfusion. 1997 Jan;37(1):38-44.

Molecular background of VS and weak C expression in blacks.

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Central Laboratory of the Netherlands Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



The Rh system is complex and consists of as many as 45 different antigens. Red cells of about 25 percent of the black population carry VS an Rh-system antigen (Rh20), but this antigen is very rare in whites. VS positivity is always associated with a weak expression of e, and usually also of C.


The RH genes of 11 black VS-positive donors were studied. Transcripts were sequenced for four VS-positive donors, three of whom had red cells with a weak expression of C. In the other donors, only analysis of genomic DNA was carried out.


The occurrence of VS was shown to be related to a single-point mutation in exon 5 of the RHCE gene (cytosine 733 guanine, leading to the Leu245Val substitution). The presence of this polymorphism in exon 5 may explain the simultaneously occurring weak e, because the E/e polymorphism is located in the same exon. Study of VS-positive donors with different Rh phenotypes showed that the polymorphism can occur in different alleles of the RHCE gene. In all three donors whose red cells showed a weak expression of C, a hybrid D-CE-D transcript was found, containing exon 4, 5, 6, 7, and (probably) 8 from the RHCE gene. No transcripts were encountered carrying DNA markers normally associated with C expression.


It is therefore postulated that the hybrid gene is responsible for the weak expression of C in these individuals. The hybrid gene carried a Leu62Phe substitution, as well as the Leu245Val substitution responsible for VS. The gene most probably cosegregates with a C allele encoding Cys 16 (normally encoded only by the C allele) and Val245 (responsible for VS antigenicity when encoded by the RHCE gene). This explains the combination of weak expression of C and VS positivity that is frequently found in blacks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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