Kell, Kx and the McLeod syndrome

C M Redman, D Russo, S Lee
Baillière's Best Practice & Research. Clinical Haematology 1999, 12 (4): 621-35
The antigens of the Kell blood group system are carried on a 93 kDa type II glycoprotein encoded by a single gene on chromosome 7 at 7q33. XK is a 50.9 kDa protein that traverses the membrane ten times and derives from a single gene on the X chromosome at Xp21. A single disulphide bond, Kell Cys 72-XK Cys 347, links Kell to XK. The Kell component of the Kell/XK complex is important in transfusion medicine since it is a highly polymorphic protein, carrying over 23 different antigens, that can cause severe reactions if mismatched blood is transfused and in pregnant mothers antibodies to Kell may elicit serious fetal and neonatal anaemia. The different Kell phenotypes are all caused by base mutations leading to single amino acid substitutions. By contrast the XK component carries a single blood group antigen, termed Kx. The physiological functions of Kell and XK have not been fully elucidated but Kell is a zinc endopeptidase with endothelin-3-converting enzyme activity and XK has the structural characteristics of a membrane transporter. Lack of Kx, the McLeod phenotype, is associated with red cell acanthocytosis, elevated levels of serum creatine phosphokinase and late onset forms of muscular and neurological defects.

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