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

  • McGhee, John, Bailey, Benjamin, Parton, Robert G., Ariotti, Nicholas and Johnston, Angus (2016). Journey to the centre of the cell (JTCC)∗: a 3D VR experience derived from migratory breast cancer cell image data. In: SA 2016 - SIGGRAPH ASIA 2016 VR Showcase. 2016 SIGGRAPH ASIA VR Showcase, SA 2016, Macau, China, (). 5 - 8 December 2016. doi:10.1145/2996376.2996385

  • Wu, S., Gomez, G. A., Michael, M., Verma, S., Cox, H., Lefevre, J. G., Parton, R. G., Hamilton, N. A. and Yap, A. S. (2014). Disruption of cortical tension patterning drives the outgrowth of oncogenic cells. In: EACR-23: 23rd Biennial Congress of the European Association for Cancer Research, Munich, Germany, (S67-S67). 5-8 July 2014.

  • Parton, Robert G. (2011). New insights into the domains and dynamics of the plasma membrane. In: Experimental Dermatology. 38th Annual Meeting of the Society-for-Cutaneous-Ultrastructure-Research, Brisbane Australia, (E872-E872). 30-31 May 2011.

  • Quinlan, Kgr, Seto, JT, Turner, N, Floetenmeyer, M, Macarthur, DG, Raftery, JM, Yang, N, Parton, RG, Cooney, GJ and North, KN (2009). alpha-Actinin-3 regulates muscle glycogen phosphorylase: A potential mechanism for the metabolic consequences of the common human null allele of ACTN3. In: Neuromuscular Disorders. 14th International Congress of the World-Muscle-Society, Geneva Switzerland, (545-546). Sep 09-12, 2009. doi:10.1016/j.nmd.2009.06.011

  • Irvine, Katharine M., Andrews, Melanie R., Fernandez, Manuel A., Parton, Robert G., Burns, Christopher J., Su, Stephen, Wilks, Andrew F., Hume, David A. and Sweet, M. J. (2008). The identification of novel CSF-1 target genes in human macrophages. In: Cytokine. 7th Joint Conference of the International-Cytokine-Society/International-Society-for-Interferon-and-Cytoklin-Research, Montreal Canada, (245-245). Oct 12-16, 2008. doi:10.1016/j.cyto.2008.07.078

  • Murphy, Samantha, Martin, Sally and Parton, Robert G. (2008). Lipid droplet fusion is regulated by protein kinase A activity in both adipocyte and non-adipocyte cell lines. In: Abstracts from the 49th International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids, 49th International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids. 49th International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids, Maastricht, The Netherlands, (S35-S35). 26-30 August 2008. doi:10.1016/j.chemphyslip.2008.05.095

  • Niebert, Marcus, Riches, James, Howes, Mark, Ferguson, Charles, Parton, Robert G., Middelberg, Anton P. J., Rintoul, Llew and Fredericks, Peter M. (2007). Hybrid organic-inorganic nanoparticles: controlled incorporation of gold nanoparticles into virus-like particles and application in surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.. In: Smart Materials IV. SPIE International Symposium on Smart Materials, Nano- and Micro-Smart System, Adelaide, Australia, (F1430.1-F1430.10). December 11-13, 2006. doi:10.1117/12.695578

  • Mackenzie, J M, Khromykh, A and Parton, R G (2006). Cholesterol is good, just ask the flaviviruses. In: Annual Scientific Meeting & Exhibition - Aust Society for Microbiology. Annual Scientific Meeting & Exhibition - Aust Society for Micry, Gold Coast, (Abstract). 2-6 July, 2006.

  • Mackenzie, J M, Liu, W, Parton, R G and Khromykh, A (2006). Inhibition of interferon signaling in flavivirus-infected cells is associated with virus-induced cholesterol re-distribution. In: 13th International Mtg on Hepatitis C Virus & Related Viruses. 13th International Mtg on Hepatitis C Virus & Related Viruses, Cairns, (Abstract). 27-31 Aug, 2006.

  • Plowman, S., Harding, A., Tinhai, T., Parton, R. G. and Hancock, J. F. (2006). Ras Plasma Membrane Signaling Platforms. In: Neurosignals: (ASI):Signaling in Cell Growth and Differentiation. Croucher Advanced Study Institute (ASI):Signaling in Cell Growth and Differentiation, Hong Kong, (48-48). 16-20 January, 2006. doi:10.1159/000094386

  • Mackenzie, J. M., Khromykh, A. and Parton, R. G. (2005). A bigmac a day keeps the flavivirus away. In: 3rd Australian Virology Group Meeting. 3rd Australian Virology Group Meeting, Phillip Is, (31-31). 9-12 Dec, 2005.

  • Mackenzie, J. M., Khromykh, A. and Parton, R. G. (2005). West Nile manipulates cholesterol balance affecting the lipid raft formation and function. In: 24th Annual Meeting of American Society for Virology. 24th Annual Meeting of American Society for Virology, Pennsylvania, (176-176). 18-22 June, 2005.

  • Gordon, D., Smith, R. W., Parton, R. G. and Kidd, G. J. (1999). Developmental regulation of microtubule organisation in oligodendrocytes. In: Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. 39th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology, Washington Convention Centre, Washington D.C., (B142). 11th - 15th December, 1999.

  • Camakaris, J., Voskoboinik, I., Mercer, J., Lane, C., Parton, R. G., Petris, M. and Strausak, D. (1999). The copper transporting p-type ATPase of Menkes disease. In: Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. International Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry, Minneapolis, Minnesota, (15-15). July 11-16.

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

    Other advisors:

  • 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