Red blood cell deficiency of Rh proteins is associated with morphologic and functional abnormalities of erythrocytes and with a chronic hemolytic anemia of varying severity. Rh-deficiency may be the result of homozygosity either for a silent allele at the RH locus (Rhnull amorph type) or for a recessive inhibitor gene(s) at an autosomal locus unlinked to RH locus (Rhnull regulator and Rhmod). In this report, we investigated the RH locus structure of Rh-deficient individuals by Southern analysis using cDNA and exon-specific probes deduced from the recent cloning of Rh genes (CcEe and D). As expected from family studies indicating that Rhmod and Rhnull regulator individuals are unable to express Rh antigens but are able to convey functional Rh genes from one generation to another, no alteration of the Rh genes was detected in these variants. Although Rhnull of the amorph type arose by inheritance of a pair of silent alleles at the RH locus, the general organization of the unique CcEe gene in the genome of the particular individual under examination was apparently normal and indistinguishable from a Rh-negative chromosome. More surprisingly, no mutation could be detected by sequencing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified reticulocyte mRNAs, suggesting that the RH locus of this patient might be altered in its transcriptional activity. Through hybridization with exon-specific probes, we were also able to determine the zygosity for the D gene in DNA samples from individuals of known genotypes; using this approach, we found that Rhnull regulator variants could be either of the DD, Dd, or dd genotypes. These findings suggest that the postulated inhibitor gene(s) can negatively suppress the RH locus expression from chromosomes carrying either one or two of the Rh genes.

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