A complex glycophorin (GP) variant of the human red blood cell membrane exhibiting both He and Sta antigens was characterized at the molecular level. Restriction mapping identified two novel Msp I fragments derived from the 5′ and 3′ portions of the GPHe(Sta) gene, respectively. Genomic DNA, including exons II-V and their splice junctions, was amplified by polymerase chain reaction, and the nucleotide sequences were determined. Comparison with the GPA and GPB sequences showed the presence in GPHe(Sta) of multiple recombinational breakpoints. In the 5′ region of the variant gene, a sequence covering a portion of exon II to intron 2 had been transferred from GPA to GPB, resulting in a B-A-B hybrid structure. Such a gene conversion-like event introduced a number of templated and untemplated nucleotide replacements and was the direct cause for the expression of the He antigen. In the 3′ region of the variant gene, an unequal crossover from GPB to GPA took place in the third intron at a recombination site apparently identical to that observed in the B-A hybrid GPSta type A gene. These results indicated that GPHe(Sta) occurs as a B-A-B-A hybrid gene, most likely originating from a two-step mechanism of homologous recombination. Transcript analysis showed the maturation from the GPHe(Sta) pre-mRNA of two shortened mRNAs of which the exon III-deleted species encodes both the He and Sta antigens.

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