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ABH and Lewis histo-blood group antigens, a model for the meaning of oligosaccharide diversity in the face of a changing world.

Biochimie 2001 Jul;83(7):565-73

Marionneau S, Cailleau-Thomas A, Rocher J, Le Moullac-Vaidye B, Ruvoen N, Clement M, Le Pendu J.

Antigens of the ABH and Lewis histo-blood group family have been known for a long time. Yet their biological meaning is still largely obscure. Based on the available knowledge about the genes involved in their biosynthesis and about their tissue distribution in humans and other mammals, we discuss here the selective forces that may maintain or propagate these antigens. We suggest that the highly polymorphic genes of each gene family provide intraspecies diversity that allows coping with diverse and rapidly evolving pathogens. In addition, some members of these three gene families are expected to be functionally redundant and may either provide a reservoir for additional diversity in the future or become inactivated. We also discuss the role of the ABH and Lewis histo-blood group antigens in pathologies such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, but argue that it is merely incidental and devoid of evolutionary impact.

It is rewarding to see the increasing appearance of scientific discussion centering on the role of ABO group (and Lewis subtypes, or secretor status) in "non-transfusion" medicine.

The Ask Dr. D'Adamo internet advice column ran from 1996 to 2009, at which time Dr. D'Adamo's teaching and programming responsibilities no longer allowed him to devote time and resources to directly answering visitor questions. However we've recently reorganized this treasure-trove of material and made it again available to his readership. He occasionally posts new entries. These are marked with a NEW tag.

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