Professor Robert Parton

Professorial Research Fellow

Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Affiliate Professor

School of Biomedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
+61 7 334 62032


Our research focuses on the cell surface and, in particular, on the structure and function of caveolae. Caveolae are small pits in the plasma membrane which have been linked to tumour formation and muscular dystrophy. We are investigating the role of caveolae in cell physiology and their exploitation by pathogens.

Professor Robert Parton is group leader for Cell Surface in Health and Disease research at the IMB.

Research Interests

  • The Cell Surface in Health and Disease
    Caveolae, small pits in the surface of many mammalian cell types, have been implicated in regulation of cell proliferation, endocytosis, and lipid transport. In addition, caveolae and caveolins, the major proteins of caveolae, have been linked to a number of disease states. Caveolins are fatty acid and cholesterol-binding proteins which have been implicated in regulation of cellular lipids. All cells maintain a delicate balance of cholesterol, through regulation of influx, efflux, synthesis, and esterification, which is crucial to the correct functioning of the cell. Our studies have shown that cholesterol is involved in organising plasma membrane signalling domains termed �lipid raft' domains, and that this process is regulated by caveolins. We are using a number of tools to dissect caveolae function including dominant negative caveolin mutants, caveolin-1 knockout mice, and novel Ras assay systems (in collaboration with John Hancock). In addition, we have utilised lower eukaryotic systems, such as zebrafish (in collaboration with Brian Key, School of Biomedical Sciences), to understand the role of caveolae and caveolins in development and in normal cellular function. In vitro studies show that caveolin mutants perturb very specific cholesterol-dependent signalling pathways and disrupt lipid metabolism. Our in vivo studies have shown a role for caveolins in evolutionarily conserved developmental pathways. We have also developed novel quantitative immunoelectron microscopic techniques which have allowed us to visualise lipid raft domains in sheets of plasma membrane prepared from cultured cells for the first time.


  • PhD (Biochemistry), University of Leicester
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Biochemistry), University of Edinburgh


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Book Chapter

  • Schieber, Nicole L., Nixon, Susan J., Webb, Richard I., Oorschot, Viola M. J. and Parton, Robert G. (2010). Modern approaches for ultrastructural analysis of the zebrafish embryo. In Thomas Müller-Reichert, Leslie Wilson and Paul Matsudaira (Ed.), Electron microscopy of model systems (pp. 425-442) Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/S0091-679X(10)96018-4

  • Evans, Timothy M., Simpson, Fiona, Parton, Robert G. and Wicking, Carol (2005). Characterization of Rab23, a negative regulator of sonic hedgehog signaling. In William E. Balch, Channing J. Der and Alan Hall (Ed.), GTPases regulating membrane targeting and fusion (pp. 759-777) Maryland Heights, MO, United States: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/S0076-6879(05)03066-1

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

  • Parton, R. G. (2002) Caveolins in (eds.) Molecular Medicine. USA: John wiley & Sons Inc

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

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  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

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  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

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  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

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  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

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Completed Supervision