We have isolated C3bR from surface-labeled erythrocytes of 180 normal individuals and 45 patients with SLE. These studies have identified a previously unrecognized C3bR molecule on E with a Mr of approximately 160,000 daltons on nonreduced SDS-polyacrylamide gels. A similar receptor phenotype is also found on other C3bR-bearing peripheral blood leukocytes. Family studies demonstrate that this approximately 160,000-dalton molecule represents a third allele that is inherited in a codominant fashion at the same locus as the two previously described C3bR alleles. In unrelated normal donors a common allele (A) determines an approximately 190,000-dalton C3bR (gene frequency 0.83), a second allele (B) determines an approximately 220,000-dalton C3bR (gene frequency = 0.16), and a third rare allele (C) determines an approximately 160,000-dalton C3bR (gene frequency = 0.01). There were no major differences in gene frequencies among Caucasians and blacks or normal individuals and patients with SLE. However, compared with normal individuals, heterozygous C3bR-AC patients with SLE express large amounts of the approximately 160,000-dalton C3bR on E. Expression of C3bR molecules among heterozygous siblings is similar, suggesting that an inherited factor controls expression of the two molecules in heterozygous donors. These observations constitute an instructive example of a structural polymorphism of an integral membrane glycoprotein and provide a structural and genetic basis for further molecular and functional analyses of C3bR in normal and patient populations.

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