We have identified a novel family of human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genes. This MHC class I related gene family is defined by 10 members, among which 6 encode potentially functional glycoproteins. The 180-kb cluster containing them has been generated by serial duplication and minimal diversification of an ancestral prototype. They are not located within the MHC on 6p21.3, but near the tip of its long arm at q24.2-q25.3, close to the human equivalent of the mouse H2-linked t-complex, a subchromosomal region syntenic to a segment of mouse chromosome 10 harboring the orthologous MHC class I related retinoic acid early transcript loci, Raet1a-d. Hence we have named the identified loci RAET1E-N. Human RAET1 products are all devoid of the membrane-proximal immunoglobulin-like alpha3 domain and most, but not all, are predicted to remain membrane-anchored via glycosylphosphatidylinositol linkage and are shown to display an atypical pattern of polymorphism. RAET1 transcripts are absent from hematopoietic tissues, but largely expressed in tumors. The involvement of orthologous mouse RAET1A-D/H60 in natural killer and T-cell activation through NKG2D engagement augurs a similar function for the human RAET1 proteins.