Dr. Robert T. Mullen

Dr. Robert T. Mullen
Professor & University Research Chair
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Phone number: 
56479 / 58852
SSC 4470
SSC 4409-10


Graduate Student Opportunities

A PhD graduate student position is available immediately in my laboratory in the area of plant cell biology. NSERC and/or DOE-funded project areas include: 1) oil body formation and the engineering of neutral lipid accumulation in vegetative tissues of plants 2) modifications to organelle membranes in virus-infected plant cells; and 3) the biogenesis (targeting and membrane association / integration) of tail-anchored proteins.

Applicants should be independent and self-motivated. Experience with any aspect of cell biology is an asset. This offer is available to Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, but other strong candidates are welcome to apply.

For more information about research projects and application requirements please contact Dr. Mullen directly

  • B.Sc. University of Alberta
  • Ph.D. University of Alberta
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Arizona State University

My research focuses on 3 main areas of plant cell biology including:

  1. Characterization of enzymes involved in seed oil biosynthesis. This research is aimed at understanding various aspects of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in producing seed oils and their proper packaging into oil bodies. One of our current goals is to engineer neutral lipid accumulation in vegetative tissues of plants.
  2. Understanding various aspects of the biogenesis of peroxisomes, including how membrane proteins are targeted to this organelle, and what role the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) serves in the formation of peroxisomes. We are also especially interested in understanding how certain viruses "hijack" peroxisomes for their replication in infected plant cells.
  3. Identification and characterization of a unique class of integral membrane proteins known as "Tail-Anchored" (TA) proteins. Our research is currently aimed at identifying TA proteins using bioinformatic approaches and characterizing these proteins in terms of their localization, targeting signals, and the protein machinery (e.g., receptors) that mediate their membrane insertion and assembly.

My research takes advantage of a wide range of cellular and molecular technologies, as well as biochemical and microscopic approaches. We also routinely carry out heterologous expression of plant genes in yeast and mammalian cells as a means to provide insights to different aspects of the processes being examined. One of the long-term goals of this research is to provide the fundamental knowledge about plants needed to apply genetic manipulation/biotechnology successfully.

  • Park S, Gidda SK, James CN, Horn PJ, Khuu N, Seay DC, Keereetaweep J, Chapman KD, Mullen RT, Dyer JM.  2013. The α/β Hydrolase CGI-58 and peroxisomal transport protein PXA1 coregulate lipid homeostasis and signaling in arabidopsis.  Plant Cell. 25(5):1726-39
  • Hu J, Baker A, Bartel B, Linka N, Mullen RT, Reumann S, Zolman BK. 2012. Plant peroxisomes: biogenesis and function. Plant Cell 24: 2279-2303. 
  • Chapman KD, Dyer JM, Mullen RT. 2012. Biogenesis and functions of lipid droplets. Journal of Lipid Research 53: 215-226. 
  • Ching SL, Gidda SK, Rochon A, van Cauwenberghe OR, Shelp BJ, Mullen RT. Glyoxylate reductase isoform 1 is localized in the cytosol and not peroxisomes in plant cells. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 54:152-168.
  • Richardson LGL, Howard ASM, Khuu N, Gidda SK, McCartney A, Morphy BJ, Mullen RT. 2011. Protein-protein interaction network and subcellular localization of the Arabidopsis thaliana ESCRT machinery. Frontiers in Plant Science 2:1-18.
  • Gidda, S.K, J.M. Shockey, M. Falcone, P.K. Kim, S.J. Rothstein, D.W. Andrews, J.M Dyer and R.T. Mullen. 2011. Hydrophobic-domain-dependent protein-protein interactions mediate the localization of GPAT enzymes to ER subdomains. Traffic. 12:452-472

Complete Publication Listing.

At the undergraduate level, I am involved in co-teaching Molecular Biology of the Cell MCB*2050. I also participate in various courses (MCB*4500 and MCB*4510) that provide research opportunities for senior undergraduates to join my lab, work in close collaboration with graduate students and/or post-doctoral associates, and undertake a research project on a topic related to plant cell and molecular biology. For more information on these types of research opportunities, please contact me directly.

Post-doctoral Research Associates

Dr. Satinder Gidda

Graduate Students

Michael Pyc
Samantha Watt