March 2010

Jerry Lingrel: Pumping Out Great Science


Jerry Lingrel’s science revolves around blood. Photo by Dan Davenport, University of Cincinnati AHC

For Jerry B. Lingrel, a distinguished professor in the department of molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Cincinnati and an associate editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, great science is in the blood.

Not that Lingrel comes from a strong scientific pedigree— to the contrary, he was just a small-town Midwestern boy whose desire to pursue a career in science was encouraged by his parents— but rather that Lingrel has made a living studying this vital fluid. From his early breakthrough in isolating and characterizing globin messenger RNA to his subsequent work sequencing the sodium-potassium pump (Na,K-ATPase) and studying its role in regulating blood pressure to his discovery of Krüppel-like factor 2, a transcription factor that, among other things, maintains blood vessel integrity; Lingrel’s science revolves around blood.

And, it all began not by design but simply by convenience.

In 1968, shortly after Lingrel, an Ohio native, had returned home to begin a professorship at the University of Cincinnati after a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, he decided to focus on the messenger RNA that encoded the proteins involved in protein synthesis.

As he recalls, mRNAs were sort of a “black box” at that time, about a decade after their initial discovery. “They had been identified in bacteria,” Lingrel says, “and everyone believed they were present in eukaryotic cells as well. But, it was still a lot of theory because no one had managed to isolate an individual mRNA that coded for a specific protein.”

Lingrel wasn’t sure if it would be feasible to isolate mRNAs, but he figured, “If I want to give myself a chance, I might as well find a system where mRNA is abundant.”

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