In order to examine the sequential expression of major blood group antigens on human erythroblasts, a selective two phase liquid culture system for erythroid progenitors was established. After mononuclear cells obtained from peripheral blood were cultured in the presence of phytohemagglutinin stimulated-leukocyte conditioned medium (PHA-LCM) for 7 days (the first phase), nonphagocytic cells were recultured under hypoxic culture conditions containing 30% fetal calf serum, 1% bovine serum albumin, 300 micrograms/mL transferrin and 2 U/mL recombinant erythropoietin (the second phase). Mature (orthochromatic) erythroblasts were observed on day 4 of the second phase, and reached 57.1 +/- 3.1% of total cells on day 8, followed by the appearance of denucleated red cells, equivalent to mature red cells in peripheral blood. Hemoglobin contents reached the level of 16.8 +/- 0.7 micrograms/10(6) cells on day 8. Flow cytometric analyses revealed that, on day 3 of the second phase, cells became blood type M-positive, corresponding to the maturation of erythroid cells. Regarding the expression of ABH blood group antigens, a small number of blood type H- positive cells were initially detected on day 0 of the second phase, while blood type A-positive cells, which essentially were not observed on day 0, increased gradually corresponding to the extent of erythroid maturation. In the present system, Lewis and P1 blood group antigens were expressed at day 5 of the second phase, although autologous plasma was required to determine the expression of Lewis blood group antigens. This culture system is beneficial for studies on normal and abnormal human red cell membranes, because the erythroid progenitors in human peripheral blood were used, and a reasonable number of erythroid cells (0.5 to 1.5 x 10(7] was obtained with good maturation.

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