Evolution of the human RH (rhesus) blood group genes: a 50 year old prediction (partially) fulfilled

Hum Mol Genet. 1997 Jun;6(6):843-50. doi: 10.1093/hmg/6.6.843.


Almost exactly 50 years ago, R. A. Fisher and R. Race proposed a model for the evolution of the RH (rhesus) genes in which the less common haplotypes were derived from the commoner ones by recombination, and in which the gene order was D-C-E. No direct-evidence bearing on this model was available then, and has not been until now. Here we present evidence for non-reciprocal intergenic exchange (gene conversion) occurring once in human history to generate the common RHCE allele, Ce. We have also used new polymorphisms to construct haplotypes which suggest that intragenic recombination played a major role in the generation of the less common haplotypes, but only if RHD lies 3' of RHCE, i.e. the order is C-E-D. We provide both genetic and physical evidence supporting this arrangement.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosomes, Artificial, Yeast
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Rh-Hr Blood-Group System / genetics*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Rh-Hr Blood-Group System
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific
  • endodeoxyribonuclease AflIII

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U66340
  • GENBANK/U66341