Adelaide Medical School
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.
Professor Rebecca Robker is a biomedical scientist whose vision is to improve health of women and children by discovering how the ovary generates oocytes and then releases them for fertilisation and the creation of a new individual. Her work is also uncovering cellular mechanisms by which different maternal physiological signals, such as obesity and age, affect ovarian function, and early embryo development.
Professor Robker is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow. Her Ovarian Cell Biology Research Group sits within the School of Medicine and Faculty of Health Sciences. Her lab is also part of the Robinson Research Institute, where she is a Leader of the Early Origins of Health Theme, which is identifying biological mechanisms by which events in early life, including at conception, influence later health.
The discoveries of Professor Robker’s team are leading to new understandings of female fertility. They have applications for the development of infertility treatments for women, therapies for optimising animal reproduction and new contraceptives, as well as important implications for women’s health policies.
All aspects of women’s health are dependent upon proper functioning of the ovary, which produces essential steroid hormones as well as oocytes- precious cells which are the foundation for transmission of life.
The ovary consists of highly specialised cell types, which generate a microenvironment for the oocyte that establishes its developmental potential, i.e. its ability to make an embryo. Ovulation- the timely release of an oocyte from a woman’s ovary is tightly regulated by hormones and environmental conditions to precisely synchronise reproductive events for fertilisation and the generation of new life. The egg must be of good quality and developmentally competent in order to generate a healthy embryo, capable of implantation and a continued legacy of good health. In plain terms: a good quality egg at the right time provides the fundamental basis for the healthiest start to life.
Dr Robker received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas at Austin and her PhD in Biomedical Science from Baylor College of Medicine (Houston TX). Her PhD studies discovered novel mechanisms by which hormones control ovarian cell proliferation (Nature 1996; Mol Endo 1998) and identified long sought proteases that control ovulation (PNAS 2000). Dr Robker undertook an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Leukocyte Biology (Baylor College of Medicine) where her studies revealed that leukocytes are resident in adipose tissue and activated by high fat diet (Obesity 2004; AJP- Cell Physiol 2006).
In 2003, Dr Robker re-located to the University of Adelaide in order to join its unparalleled concentration of leaders in the fields of Reproductive Medicine and Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DoHaD). Here her work demonstrated that ovarian somatic cells and oocytes are affected by obesity (Endocrinology 2008, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2009). Dr Robker’s team has further discovered the mechanisms by which lipid metabolism and lipid excess affect oocyte developmental potential (Biology of Reprod 2010, Mol Endo 2010), and most recently found that obesity-induced alterations in oocyte mitochondria persist into offspring tissues (Development 2015), revising our understanding of developmental origins of health.
Dr Robker’s Ovarian Cell Biology group is a talented, enthusiastic and cohesive team. Current members of the ovarian cell biology team are: postdoctoral fellow Dr Linda Wu and postgraduate students Siew Wong, Macarena Gonzalez, Thao Dinh and Yasmyn Gordon. The group is also currently accepting new students to work on a number of exciting projects relating to nutritional control of oocyte quality and molecular mechanisms of ovulation.
Research Interests and Current Projects:
Discovering how oocytes mature within the ovary and how nutrition affects their embryonic capacity.
Discovering mechanisms within the oocyte that set offspring mitochondrial inheritance and how obesity, age and Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART) influence this biology.
Identifying therapies, both pharmaceutical and lifestyle, to reverse the detrimental effects of obesity on early embryo development.
Identifying how in vitro environments influence embryo metabolic profile and mitigating these changes to prevent future disease risks from Assisted Reproduction Technologies.
Identifying the oocyte’s role in connecting maternal and offspring physiology, to transform our understanding of maternal influences on offspring health.
Determining why maternal obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) impair ovulation and diminish oocyte developmental competence.
Investigating how immune cells influence ovarian function.
Identifying the molecular mechanisms that control ovulation.
Date Position Institution name 2015 Associate Professor (Adjunct) Monash University 2015 Associate Professor University of Adelaide 2013 NHMRC Career Development Fellow University of Adelaide
Date Institution name Country Title — Baylor College of Medicine United States of America PhD (Cell Biology) — University of Texas at Austin United States of America Bachelor of Science (Zoology)
Date Title Institution Country 2000 - 2003 NIH Postdoctoral (NRSA) Fellow Baylor College of Medicine United States of America
Year Citation 2019 Russell, D. L., & Robker, R. L. (2019). Ovulation: The Coordination of Intrafollicular Networks to Ensure Oocyte Release. In P. Leung, & E. Adashi (Eds.), The Ovary (3 ed., pp. 217-234). United Kingdom: Academic Press. 2013 Robker, R., & Norman, R. (2013). Obesity and oocyte quality. In A. Trounson, R. Gosden, & U. Eichenlaub-Ritter (Eds.), Biology and pathology of the oocyte: role in fertility, medicine, and nuclear reprogramming (2 ed., pp. 362-370). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
2008 Norman, R., Ruifrok, A., Moran, L., & Robker, R. (2008). Recommended therapies for metabolic defects in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. In A. Dunaif, R. J. Chang, S. Franks, & R. S. Legro (Eds.), Contemporary Endocrinology (pp. 259-280). USA: Humana Press.
Year Citation 2018 Robker, R. (2018). Mitochondrial stress in preimplantation development and opportunities for treatment. In HUMAN REPRODUCTION Vol. 33 (pp. 73). Barcelona, SPAIN: OXFORD UNIV PRESS. 2017 Dunning, K., & Robker, R. (2017). The role of L-carnitine during oocyte in vitro maturation: essential co-factor?. In Animal Reproduction Vol. 14 (pp. 469-475). Cabo de Santo Agostinho, BRAZIL: Brazilian College of Animal Reproduction.
DOI Scopus1 WoS1
2016 Green, E., Moldenhauer, L. M., Kara, E. E., Chin, P. Y., Robker, R. L., McColl, S. R., & Robertson, S. A. (2016). Progesterone control of regulatory T cell phenotype and abundance in pregnancy - A novel role for non-classical progesterone action. In JOURNAL OF REPRODUCTIVE IMMUNOLOGY Vol. 115 (pp. 43). Erfurt, GERMANY: ELSEVIER IRELAND LTD.
2011 Russell, D. L., Matson, L. N., Dunning, K. R., Thompson, J. G., Robker, R. L., & Gilchrist, R. B. (2011). Patterning the Response to Oocyte Signals in Ovarian Follicle Morphogenesis.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION Vol. 85 (pp. 2 pages). Portland, OR: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2011 Norman, R., Robker, R., Xing, Y., Wu, L., & Lane, M. (2011). Components of follicular fluid from obese women induce adverse metabolic defects in cumulus-oocyte complexes. In HUMAN REPRODUCTION Vol. 26 (pp. I75). Stockholm, SWEDEN: OXFORD UNIV PRESS.
2011 Akison, L. K., Alvino, E. R., Dunning, K. R., Robker, R. L., & Russell, D. L. (2011). Migratory, Invasive and Adhesive Phenotypes Are Transiently Induced in the Cumulus Oocyte Complex at Ovulation.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION Vol. 85 (pp. 2 pages). Portland, OR: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2010 Robker, R. L. (2010). Inflammatory pathways linking obesity and ovarian dysfunction. In JOURNAL OF REPRODUCTIVE IMMUNOLOGY Vol. 86 (pp. 16). Palm Grove, AUSTRALIA: ELSEVIER IRELAND LTD.
2010 Robker, R. L., Akison, L. K., Richards, J. S., Smith, C. W., & Russell, D. L. (2010). The Inflammatory Response at Ovulation Is Altered in Ovaries of Progesterone Receptor Null (PRKO) Mice. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 71). Milwaukee, WI: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2010 Wu, L. L., Dunning, K. R., Yang, X., Russell, D. L., Norman, R. J., & Robker, R. L. (2010). Oocytes Exhibit Lipid Accumulation, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, and Apoptosis in Response to High Fat Diet. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 91). Milwaukee, WI: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION.
2010 Yang, X., Wu, L., Dunning, K., Norman, R., Liang, X., & Robker, R. (2010). OBESITY ON INCREASES LIPID DROPLETS AND LIPOTOXICITY RESPONSES IN THE PERIOVULATORY CUMULUS-OOCYTECOMPLEX.. In FERTILITY AND STERILITY Vol. 94 (pp. S138-S139). Denver, CO: ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC.
2010 Dunning, K. R., Cashman, K., Russell, D. L., Thompson, J., Norman, R., & Robker, R. L. (2010). Increased Beta-Oxidation, ATP Levels, and Improved Oocyte Developmental Competence in Response to L-Carnitine. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 84). Milwaukee, WI: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2009 Alvino, E., Robker, R., & Russel, D. (2009). An Active Role for the Cumulus Oocyte Complex During Ovulation.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 59-60). Pittsburgh, PA: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2009 Dunning, K. R., Cashman, K., Russell, D. L., Norman, R. N., & Robker, R. L. (2009). The Role of Beta-Oxidation During Oocyte Maturation and Embryo Development.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 54). Pittsburgh, PA: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2009 Russell, D. L., Gebhardt, K., Fed, D., Robker, R. L., & Lane, M. (2009). Novel Cumulus Cell Biomarkers of an Oocyte's Potential to Achieve Pregnancy. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 91). Pittsburgh, PA: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2008 Russell, D., Brown, H., Alvino, E., & Robker, R. (2008). Involvement of blood and lymphatic angiogenesis in folliculogenesis and ovulation. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION Vol. 78 (pp. 79). Kona, HI: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION.
2007 Dunning, K., Lane, M., Brown, H., Yeo, C., Thompson, J., Robker, R., & Russell, D. (2007). Altered cumulus oocyte matrix following in vitro maturation of oocytes.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION Vol. 77 (pp. 199). San Antonio, TX: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION.
2006 Brake, D., Ulland, T., Robker, R., & Smith, C. W. (2006). Diet-induced increases in ICAM-1, CD11c, and CD34 in a murine model.. In CLINICAL IMMUNOLOGY Vol. 119 (pp. S171). San Francisco, CA: ACADEMIC PRESS INC ELSEVIER SCIENCE.
2006 Robker, R. L., Minge, C. E., D Bennett, B., Lane, M., & Norman, R. J. (2006). Peri-ovulatory Rosiglitazone treatment reverses impaired embryo development associated with obesity.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 136). Univ Nebraska Med Ctr, Omaha, NE: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2006 Russell, D. L., Brown, H. M., Dunning, K. R., Pritchard, M. A., & Robker, R. L. (2006). Ovarian folliculogenesis and lymphangiogenesis are dependent on ECM remodelling by the protease ADAMTS-1.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION (pp. 109). Univ Nebraska Med Ctr, Omaha, NE: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 2003 Robker, R., Smith, C., Norman, R., & Russell, D. (2003). Macrophage migration and luteal regression in ovaries of leukocyte adhesion molecule-deficient (ICAM-1-/-) mice.. In BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION Vol. 68 (pp. 307-308). CINCINNATI, OHIO: SOC STUDY REPRODUCTION. 1998 Robker, R., & Richards, J. (1998). Hormonal control of the cell cycle in ovarian cells: Proliferation versus differentiation. In Biology of Reproduction Vol. 59 (pp. 476-482). PORTLAND, OR: OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC.
DOI Scopus174 WoS168 Europe PMC104
1998 Richards, J., Russell, D., Robker, R., Dajee, M., & Alliston, T. (1998). Molecular mechanisms of ovulation and luteinization. In Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology Vol. 145 (pp. 47-54). AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS: ELSEVIER IRELAND LTD.
DOI Scopus159 WoS148 Europe PMC82
1998 Richards, J., Robker, R., Cooke, P., & Rider, V. (1998). Hormonal control of cell proliferation/differentiation: An introduction. In Biology of Reproduction Vol. 59 (pp. 463).
Year Citation 2016 Green, E., Moldenhauer, L., Kara, E., Chin, P., Robker, R., McColl, S., & Robertson, S. (2016). Regulatory T cell abundance and phenotype in pregnancy - a novel role for progesterone potentially independent of nuclear progesterone receptor. Poster session presented at the meeting of EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY. Melbourne, AUSTRALIA: WILEY-BLACKWELL. 2015 van Marrewijk, I., Thompson, J., Roseboom, T., Davies, M., Lane, M., Robker, R., . . . Mol, B. (2015). Long-term safety of IVF, ICSI and IVM: a systematic review of animal studies. Poster session presented at the meeting of HUMAN REPRODUCTION. Lisbon, PORTUGAL: OXFORD UNIV PRESS. 2013 Chen, M., Wu, L., Norman, R., Robker, R., Wittert, G., & Heilbronn, L. (2013). Altered Glucose Metabolism in Mice and Humans Conceived by In Vitro Fertilisation. Poster session presented at the meeting of DIABETES. AMER DIABETES ASSOC. 2013 Chen, M., Wu, L., Wittert, G., Norman, R., Robker, R., & Heilbronn, L. (2013). Distinct adult metabolic consequences following ovarian stimulation versus in vitro culture of mouse embryos. Poster session presented at the meeting of Oral and Poster Session Abstracts of the International Federation of Fertility Societies 21st World Congress on Fertility and Sterility and the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, as published in Fertility and Sterility. Boston, MA: Elsevier.
2013 Pantasri, T., Robker, R., Wu, L., & Norman, R. (2013). Relationship between serum and follicular levels of glucose and lipids, oocyte lipids and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) outcome. Poster session presented at the meeting of HUMAN REPRODUCTION. London, ENGLAND: OXFORD UNIV PRESS. 2012 Sutton-McDowall, M., Feil, D., Robker, R., Thompson, J., & Dunning, K. (2012). UTILISATION OF ENDOGENOUS FATTY ACID STORES FOR ENERGY PRODUCTION IN BOVINE PRE-IMPLANTATION EMBRYOS. Poster session presented at the meeting of REPRODUCTION FERTILITY AND DEVELOPMENT. CSIRO PUBLISHING.
Research Funding (selected)
|Date||Funding Body||Project Title|
|2017-2020||NHMRC||The legacy of the egg (Senior Research Fellowship)|
|2016||Diabetes Australia||Is mitochondrial dysfunction in IVF blastocysts responsible for impaired glucose metabolism in offspring?|
|2014-2016||NHMRC||The obesity-prone egg|
|2014-2016||NHMRC||Manipulating Ovarian Follicle - Oocyte Communication to Control Reproductive Outcomes|
|2013-2016||NHMRC||(Career Development Fellowship) A good quality egg at the right time|
|2013||Gardiner Foundation||Improving the fertility of high performance Holstein cows during early lactation|
|2012||Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation||Reversing the detrimental effects of obesity on early embryo growth|
|2012||Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation||The impact of lipotoxicity in the ovaries and oocytes of obese women on embryo health|
|2011-2013||NHMRC||Cumulus cell invasive migration: clearing a path for the oocyte|
|2011||Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation||Preservation of Female Fertility For Young Cancer Patients: The Importance of Fatty Acid Oxidation in a 3-D Ovarian Follicle Culture System|
|2008-2010||ARC||Cellular signals controlling oocyte activation.|
|2007-2009||NHMRC||Obesity and infertility: Effects of diet-induced insulin resistance on oocyte quality|
Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2017 Principal Supervisor Re-energising the Pre-implantation Embryo to Extend Lifetime Health Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Yasmyn Ellaynah Gordon 2016 Co-Supervisor Long non-coding RNAS mediate hormone action and oocyte maturation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Doan Thao Dinh
Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2013 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Regulation of Membrane Domains and Mitochondrial Dynamics during Normal Oocyte Maturation and Embryogenesis and in Response to Physiological Stress Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Siew Leng Wong 2013 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Dietary Interventions for Improving Fertility Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Macarena Bermudez Gonzalez 2011 - 2014 Co-Supervisor Metabolic Phenotyping of Young Adults and Mice Born Through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Miaoxin Chen 2010 - 2012 Co-Supervisor Ovarian Follicular Fluid Reflects the Clinical Condition and Oocyte Cumulus Homeostasis Master of Medical Science Master Full Time Miss Tawiwan Pantasri 2009 - 2013 Co-Supervisor Investigation into the Expression and Localisation of C-Kit and the Regulation of Kit Ligand Gene Expression in the Adult Human Ovary Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Astrud Tuck 2008 - 2009 Co-Supervisor Characterisation of the Development and Hormonal Regulation of the Ovarian Lymphatic Vasculature Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Hannah Brown 2008 - 2011 Principal Supervisor The Role of the Cumulus Oocyte Complex During Ovulation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Emily Alvino 2008 - 2013 Principal Supervisor The Role of Nuclear Progesterone Receptor (PGR) in Regulating Gene Expression, Morphology and Function in the Ovary and Oviduct during the Periovulatory Period Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Lisa Akison 2006 - 2009 Co-Supervisor Diet-Induced Obesity Influences Oocyte Developmental Competence Via Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma (PPARG)-Mediated Mechanisms Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Cadence Haynes 2005 - 2008 Co-Supervisor Functional Characterisation of the Cumulus Oocyte Matrix During Maturation of Oocytes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Kylie Dunning 2005 - 2009 Co-Supervisor The Impact of Exogenous TGF Beta 1 on Male Reproductive Function Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Leanne McGrath
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