<b>Professor Rob Parton</b><br>
Group Leader, Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine Division<br>
Investigator, Centre for Rare Diseases Research<br>
Investigator, Breakthrough Science Program in Mechanobiology<p>
P: +61 7 3346 2032<br>
E: r.parton@imb.uq.edu.au<p>
<b>Keywords</b><br>
- cancer<br>
- muscular dystrophy<br>
- diabetes<br>
- lipodystophy
Professor Rob Parton
Group Leader, Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine Division
Investigator, Centre for Rare Diseases Research
Investigator, Breakthrough Science Program in Mechanobiology

P: +61 7 3346 2032
E: r.parton@imb.uq.edu.au

Keywords
- cancer
- muscular dystrophy
- diabetes
- lipodystophy

Role of the cell surface in health and disease

Each of the cells that make up our organs is enclosed in a plasma membrane, a complex sheet made up of fats and proteins that plays a crucial role in detecting growth signals or taking nutrients up into the cell. At the same time, the plasma membrane protects the cell against unwanted invaders. Our work aims to understand the plasma membrane and what goes wrong in disease.

The properties of the plasma membrane rely on its specialisation into regions of specific function. Our research particularly focuses on caveolae, small ‘pockets’ on the plasma membrane that form a specialised domain of the cell surface with a distinct structure and function. Caveolae have been implicated in regulation of cell growth and in maintaining the balance of fats in the cell. Defective caveolae in human patients are associated with cancer, lipodystrophies (lack of fat tissue), muscular dystrophy, and cardiovascular disease.

To study caveola function, we are studying cells and animal models, namely mice and zebrafish, which lack caveolae or have defective caveolae. We know loss of caveola proteins prevents efficient liver regeneration after liver damage and we have now shown that the major pathways involved in this process are those that handle fats (lipids) in the liver.

Moreover, we discovered new scaffolding proteins called cavins that are responsible for caveola formation, and we explored their function. Our investigations revealed how caveolae can respond to forces on the plasma membrane in a process called mechanotransduction. During this process, caveolae are stretched, causing cavins to be released into the cell and allowing them to interact with cellular components. We showed that this also alters the organisation of lipids, crucial for signalling. We further demonstrated that the formation of caveolae by cavins plays an important role in cancer, as an imbalance in caveola proteins can lead to prostate cancer.

In addition to providing molecular insights into diseases such as prostate cancer and muscular dystrophy, we have continued work to optimise a unique novel drug delivery system that builds upon our fundamental research, which we hope will have therapeutic benefits in the future.

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Research in the news

26 February 2014 - NHMRC research showcase: Top ranked project grant, NHMRC website

Research training opportunities

Please see IMB's postgraduate website for more informaiton. 

Key publications

View more publications by Professor Parton via Pubmed or via UQ Researchers.

Howes, M.T., Kirkham, M., Riches, J., Cortese, K., Walser, P.J., Simpson, F., Hill, M.M., Jones, A., Lundmark, R., Lindsay, M.R., Hernandez-Deviez, D.J., Hadzic, G., McCluskey, A., Bashir, R., Liu, L., Pilch, P., McMahon, H., Robinson, P.J., Hancock, J.F., Mayor, S., and Parton, R.G. (2010). Clathrin-independent carriers form a high capacity endocytic sorting system at the leading edge of migrating cells. Journal of Cell Biology 190: 675-691.

Bastiani, M., Liu, L., Hill, M.M., Jedrychowski, M.P., Nixon, S.J., Lo, H.P., Abankwa, D., Luetterforst, R., Fernandez-Rojo, M., Breen, M.R., Gygi, S.P., Vinten, J., Walser, P.J., North, K.N., Hancock, J.F., Pilch, P.F., and Parton, R.G. (2009). MURC/Cavin-4 and cavin family members form tissue-specific caveolar complexes. Journal of Cell Biology 185: 1259-1273.

Hill, M.M., Bastiani, M., Luetterforst, R., Nixon, S., Kirkham, M., Kirkham, A., Nixon, S.J., Walser, P., Abankwa, D., Ooschot, V.M.J., Martin, S., Hancock, J.F., and Parton, R.G. (2008). PTRF-cavin, a conserved cytoplasmic protein required for caveola formation and function. Cell 132: 113-124.

Group contacts

Dr Nicholas Ariotti
Research staff
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
n.ariotti@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr Ye-Wheen Lim
Research higher degree student
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
yewheen.lim@uqconnect.edu.au
Professor Rob Parton
Group leader
+61 7 334 62032
r.parton@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Michele Bastiani
Research staff
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62334
m.bastiani@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Harriet Lo
Research staff
+61 7 334 62030
+61 7 334 62331
h.lo@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr James Rae
Research staff
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
j.rae@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Tom Hall
Research staff
+61 7 334 62030
+61 7 334 62335
thomas.hall@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr Nick Martel
Research staff
+61 7 334 62030
+61 7 334 62331
n.martel@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr Vikas Tillu
Research higher degree student
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
v.tillu@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr Wooram Jung
Research higher degree student
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
w.jung@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Kerrie-Ann McMahon
Research staff
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
k.mcmahon@imb.uq.edu.au
 
Mrs Natalya Leneva
Research higher degree student
+61 7 334 62331
+61 7 334 62335
n.leneva@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Susan Nixon
Research staff
+61 7 334 62030
+61 7 334 62331
s.nixon@imb.uq.edu.au