The mechanosensory ion channel Piezo1 is the carrier molecule for Er red cell antigens, establishing a new blood group system.
Antibodies directed against 2 novel high-incidence Er antigens are associated with severe hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn.
Despite the identification of the high-incidence red cell antigen Era nearly 40 years ago, the molecular background of this antigen, together with the other 2 members of the Er blood group collection, has yet to be elucidated. Whole exome and Sanger sequencing of individuals with serologically defined Er alloantibodies identified several missense mutations within the PIEZO1 gene, encoding amino acid substitutions within the extracellular domain of the Piezo1 mechanosensor ion channel. Confirmation of Piezo1 as the carrier molecule for the Er blood group antigens was demonstrated using immunoprecipitation, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene knockout, and expression studies in an erythroblast cell line. We report the molecular bases of 5 Er blood group antigens: the recognized Era, Erb, and Er3 antigens and 2 novel high-incidence Er antigens, described here as Er4 and Er5, establishing a new blood group system. Anti-Er4 and anti-Er5 are implicated in severe hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. Demonstration of Piezo1, present at just a few hundred copies on the surface of the red blood cell, as the site of a new blood group system highlights the potential antigenicity of even low-abundance membrane proteins and contributes to our understanding of the in vivo characteristics of this important and widely studied protein in transfusion biology and beyond.