Biochemical aspects of the blood group Rh (rhesus) antigens

Baillieres Clin Haematol. 1993 Jun;6(2):401-22. doi: 10.1016/s0950-3536(05)80152-0.


Despite their importance in clinical haematology, the details of the structures and possible functions of the proteins associated with Rh antigen expression have only recently begun to emerge. The antigens are carried by a multimeric complex between a M(r) 30,000 polypeptide which is not glycosylated (the Rh30 polypeptide), and a heavily glycosylated glycoprotein (the Rh50 glycoprotein). The N-terminal amino acid sequences of the two types of proteins were determined and used to isolated cDNA clones. The Rh30 and Rh50 proteins are both very hydrophobic membrane proteins, each containing up to 12 membrane spans. The two proteins are homologous in sequence and clearly belong to the same family. They are erythroid-specific and not related to any other known family of proteins. The Rh30 polypeptides are the genetic determinants of Rh blood group antigen activity. One polypeptide (Rh30A) is probably associated with CcEe antigen activity, while another (Rh30B) is responsible for the D antigen. The proteins have structures typical of transporters but their functions are still unclear. A number of other red cell membrane proteins (LW, CD47, glycophorin B and Fy) show alterations in red cells lacking Rh antigens (Rhnull). These proteins may have a role in the biosynthesis or function of the Rh30 and Rh50 proteins.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Blood Group Antigens / genetics
  • CD47 Antigen
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Duffy Blood-Group System / metabolism
  • Genes
  • Glycophorins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rh-Hr Blood-Group System / chemistry*
  • Rh-Hr Blood-Group System / genetics
  • Rh-Hr Blood-Group System / immunology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • Blood Group Antigens
  • CD47 Antigen
  • CD47 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Duffy Blood-Group System
  • Glycophorins
  • Rh-Hr Blood-Group System