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J Biol Chem. 1998 Jan 23;273(4):2207-13.

The human Rh50 glycoprotein gene. Structural organization and associated splicing defect resulting in Rh(null) disease.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute, New York Blood Center, New York 10021, USA.


The Rh (Rhesus) protein family comprises Rh50 glycoprotein and Rh30 polypeptides, which form a complex essential for Rh antigen expression and erythrocyte membrane integrity. This article describes the structural organization of Rh50 gene and identification of its associated splicing defect causing Rhnull disease. The Rh50 gene, which maps at chromosome 6p11-21.1, has an exon/intron structure nearly identical to Rh30 genes, which map at 1p34-36. Of the 10 exons assigned, conservation of size and sequence is confined mainly to the region from exons 2 to 9, suggesting that RH50 and RH30 were formed as two separate genetic loci from a common ancestor via a transchromosomal insertion event. The available information on the structure of RH50 facilitated search for candidate mutations underlying the Rh deficiency syndrome, an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by mild to moderate chronic hemolytic anemia and spherostomatocytosis. In one patient with the Rhnull disease of regulator type, a shortened Rh50 transcript lacking the sequence of exon 7 was detected, while no abnormality was found in transcripts encoding Rh30 polypeptides and Rh-related CD47 glycoprotein. Amplification and sequencing of the genomic region spanning exon 7 revealed a G-->A transition in the invariant GT motif of the donor splice site in both Rh50 alleles. This splicing mutation caused not only a total skipping of exon 7 but also a frameshift and premature chain termination. Thus, the deduced translation product contained 351 instead of 409 amino acids, with an entirely different C-terminal sequence following Thr315. These results identify the donor splicing defect, for the first time, as a loss-of-function mutation at the RH50 locus and pinpoint the importance of the C-terminal region of Rh50 in Rh complex formation via protein-protein interactions.

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