The Colton blood group antigens Coa, Cob and Co3 are encoded by the AQP1 gene which produces a water channel forming integral protein. The extremely rare Co-deficiency enables immunisation against the Co3 isoantigen.
Materials and methods
Four patients from different regions of Europe who belong to the ethnic minority of Romani (Gypsy) presented with irregular antibodies against a high frequency red blood cell antigen. Positive cross-matches with all red blood cells tested were reported. An Anti-Co3 antibody was identified as the cause of incompatibility in the four cases. The genetic background was determined by polymerase chain reaction typing with sequence-specific primers and by DNA sequencing.
The Co(a−b−) phenotype was confirmed in the four patients despite the fact that genotyping revealed the CO*01 allele of the AQP1 gene. A homozygous AQP1 c.601delG mutation, leading to a frame shift and producing a premature stop in the next codon, was responsible for the Co-negative phenotype in all four cases. While one patient was successfully transfused with blood from his sibling with the identical mutation, another case, a baby affected by haemolytic disease of the newborn, recovered without transfusion.
Despite the difficulties in undertaking a population study to determine the prevalence of this AQP1 c.601delG allele in the ethnic minority of Romani, the observations described in this report clearly suggest an accumulation of this mutation, which causes the Co(a−b−) phenotype, in Romani (Gypsy) patients. Further studies are necessary to prove such an accumulation.