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Red blood cell antigens and antibodies

Lynne Uhl, MD
Section Editor
Arthur J Silvergleid, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


The surface of the red blood cell (RBC) is coated with antigens (sugars and proteins) that are integrally linked to membrane proteins or lipids. The clinical relevance of these antigens for blood component transfusion and tissue/organ transplantation lies in the ability of these surface molecules to incite an immune response. In addition, some RBC surface antigens have cellular functions with clinical relevance, and others are targets of immune attack in certain infections.

This topic will review clinically relevant RBC antigens and respective antibodies, and settings in which they may be important. Additional discussions of certain clinical issues are presented separately:

Pretransfusion testing – (See "Pretransfusion testing for red blood cell transfusion".)

Hemolytic anemia – (See "Pathogenesis of autoimmune hemolytic anemia: Warm agglutinins and drugs", section on 'Characteristics of the antibodies'.)

Rh(D) hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN) – (See "Overview of Rhesus D alloimmunization in pregnancy".)

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 10, 2017.
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