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Robert Wilkins

MA, DPhil
Biomedical Sciences and Medicine


My research examines how altered membrane transport activity is associated with cellular dysfunction and disease, and addresses two problems:

(i) the influence of physical and chemical factors on cartilage ion homeostasis

The intracellular composition or cartilage cells (chondrocytes), in particular intracellular pH, has profound effects on the synthesis of cartilage matrix and the enzymes that degrade it. We characterise how physical and chemical variables that change during joint loading or are disturbed in degenerative cartilage conditions alter the expression and activity of chondrocyte membrane transport pathways, thereby changing intracellular composition and cartilage turnover.

(ii) the role of cell volume regulation in epithelial cancer progression

There is an association between the expression of a variety of membrane transporters that regulate cell volume and the progression of cancer in epithelial tissues such as the cervix and breast. In collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan, we have established a cellular model of  human cervical cancer that we are using to establish how enhanced activity of one volume regulator, KCC, leads to enhanced cell proliferative and invasive capacity.

I oversee the admission and teaching of the four or five pre-clinical Medicine students and two or three Biomedical Sciences students in each year and provide tutorials covering cellular and systems physiology. I am the Director of the Biomedical Sciences Course in the Medical Sciences Division and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences 2e (OUP).

Recent Publications

GIBSON, J.S., MILNER, P.I., WHITE, R., FAIRFAX, T.P. & WILKINS, R.J. (2008) Oxygen and reactive oxygen species in articular cartilage: modulators of ionic homeostasis. Eu. J. Physiol. 455:563-573

TATTERSALL, A.L. & WILKINS, R.J. (2008) Effects of hexosamines and omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids on pH regulation by interleukin 1-treated isolated bovine articular chondrocytes. Eu. J. Physiol. 456:501-506

TATTERSALL, A.L. & WILKINS, R.J. (2008) Modulation of Na+-H+ exchange isoforms NHE1 and NHE3 by insulin-like growth factor-1 in isolated bovine articular chondrocytes. J Orthop. Res. 26:1428-1433

GIBSON, J.S., FAIRFAX, T.P.A., MCCARTNEY, D., MILNER, P.I. & WILKINS, R.J. (2009) Rapid effects of hypoxia on H+ homeostasis in articular chondrocytes. Eu. J. Physiol. 458:1085-1092

CHEN, Y.-F., CHOU, C.-Y., WILKINS, R.J., ELLORY, J.C., MOUNT, D. & SHEN, M.-R. (2009) Motor protein-dependent membrane trafficking of KCl cotransporter-4 is  important for cancer cell invasion. Cancer Res. 69:8585-859 

BERNHARDT, I., ELLORY, J.C, GIBSON, J.S. & WILKINS, R.J. (2009) Ion permeability of membranes: from lipid bilayers to biological membranes. Advances in Planar Lipid Bilayers and Membranes 10:1-27

WEI, W.-C., AKERMAN, C.J., NEWEY, S.E., PAN, J. CLINCH, N.W, SHEN, M.-R., WILKINS, R.J. & ELLORY, J.C. (2011) The potassium chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2) promotes cervical cancer cell migration and invasion by an ion transport-independent mechanism. J. Physiol. 589:5349-5359

MILNER, P.I., SMITH, H.C., NEWEY, S.E., PAN, J., CLINCH, N.W., WILKINS, R.J. & GIBSON, J.S. (2013) Growth factor regulation of intracellular pH homeostasis under hypoxic conditions in isolated equine articular chondrocytes. J. Orthop. Res. 31:197-203