Mary Jane Gething on Influenza Hemagglutin Research
  Mary Jane Gething     Biography    
Recorded: 16 Jan 2003

That part of the science was done and it became clear what was happening in terms of shift and drift in the epidemics and pandemics of disease. So what I wanted to go on and do next was to understand protein trafficking because these viral glycoproteins—at that stage, people couldn’t clone easily the genes encoding the cDNAs—encoding normal cellular membrane proteins, because they were not abundant enough in the cell. At that stage the sort of things that were being cloned were globin and interferon. And you either needed a biological assay for something that was rare or it was the very abundant proteins encoded by abundant RNAs that it was possible to clone. So the viral glycoproteins were already making quite good model systems and enough biology had been done on them by other scientists to know that they were good models for—they would traffic through the cell the same way that normal membrane proteins, and so on, did.

So what I decided I wanted to do was understand the signals—it was also known at the time that in polarized cells, so cells that have a differentiated apical layer from the basal lateral layers of the cell—membranes of the cell—that different membrane proteins were sent to one membrane or the other to define different domains of the cell. So the question was what were the signals that defined it.

And so it was clear—what I wanted to do was do saturated mutagenesis, to express the flu hemagglutin in eukaryotic cells. And then once that was done was to do saturated mutagenesis—to understand where, what part of the protein defined its pathway through the cell. Flu went just to the apical to me.

But it was early days, it was just the very beginnings of vectors for expressing proteins and cells and the, so I started collaborating intensely with Joe again at this point because they’d been working on SV40 and it was the early days of SV40 viral vectors and it was a perfect system for expressing HA.

Mary-Jane Gething, biochemist is Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne where she earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1974. Subsequently she went to Cambridge to do post-doctoral work.

In 1976, she moved to London to work on protein sequencing and in 1980, Gething and Joseph Sambrook received a NATO grant for travel to collaborate on virus research. She began working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1982 where she continued her research of proteins. In 1985, Gething and Sambrook moved to Dallas to work at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. They moved back to Australia in 1994.

Her current research involves protein folding in the cell and the role of molecular chaperone BiP.