Kell is one of the major blood group systems in human red blood cells (RBCs). The Kell antigens are carried on a 731 amino acid glycoprotein that is thought to span the erythrocyte membrane once. Rabbit antibodies to three synthetic peptides, derived from different parts of the Kell protein, were used to determine the topology of Kell protein on the RBC. Antibodies to a C-terminal peptide and to a peptide derived from amino acid residues 410 to 439 reacted with RBCs treated with 0.2 mol/L dithiothreitol. An antibody to the N-terminal peptide reacted with inside-out RBC vesicles but not with right-side-out vesicles nor with intact RBCs, showing that Kell is a type II membrane protein and that the extracellular portion of the protein is folded by disulfide bonds. By transfection, Kell protein was expressed on the cell surface of surrogate cells, and the transfected cells expressed similar antigenic properties as native RBCs. Kell protein was expressed in COS- 1 and K562 cells and in Sf9 cells infected by the Baculovirus system. Transfected K562 cells expressed several high-incidence antigens but not the low-incidence antigen K1.

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