The evolution of the RH gene family is characterized by two major duplication events, the first one originating the RH50 and RH30 genes and the second one giving rise to RHCE and RHD, the two paralogous RH30 genes which encode the Rh blood group antigens in human. The new sequence data obtained here for mouse RH50 and RH30 and for macaque RH50 allowed us to compare the evolutionary rates of the two genes and to show that RH50 evolved about 2.6 times more slowly than RH30 at nonsynonymous positions. This result implies that Rh50 proteins were evolutionarily more conserved compared to Rh30 polypeptides, thus being indicative of the functional significance of the former protein in species as distantly related as sponge and human. The duplication event leading to RH50 and RH30 genes was estimated to have occurred between 250 and 346 million years ago. Moreover, we could also estimate that the duplication event producing the RHCE and RHD genes occurred some 8.5 +/- 3.4 million years ago, in the common ancestor of human, chimpanzee, and gorilla. Interestingly, this event seems to coincide with the appearance in these species of a G-to-T mutation in the RH50 gene which created a stop codon in the corresponding transcript. This led to an Rh50 C-terminal cytoplasmic domain shorter than that found in orangutan and early primates.