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Prof Peter Robbins

Fellow in Medicine

Professor of Physiology and Head, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics


I was educated at a state school in Norfolk. I studied medicine at Oxford and I undertook my doctoral studies in Physiology by taking three years out in the middle of the medical course – a practice that was more common then than it is now. After qualifying in medicine, I undertook hospital jobs for a period of time in Gloucester and Oxford before taking up my fellowship at Queen’s.


I have taught physiology, with a particular focus on integrative, human and medical physiology, for over 25 years. Recently, I have become Head of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics which precludes me from undertaking tutorial teaching. However, I continue to lecture and I particularly enjoy giving the first year lecture course on respiratory physiology and lecturing on this as an advanced, optional subject in the third year.


My research interests focus around oxygen – not just the way it is used in metabolism, but also the way in which it affects so many of our biological functions, including respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic control. One fundamental way in which it does this is by changing the degree to which literally hundreds of genes are expressed in a co-ordinated cellular response to the availability of oxygen. A further special feature of this regulatory system is that it interacts in many different ways with iron availability and iron metabolism. My particular interests centre not so much on the biochemistry involved, but on the implications that arise for understanding human physiology. So, for example, we have studied patients with rare genetic diseases affecting this oxygen sensing system to understand what effects they may have. We have studied high-altitude populations and shown that this system has undergone evolutionary modification to the low oxygen levels at high altitude, and we have studied the effects of manipulating iron stores and what effects these have on human responses to low oxygen.


Formenti F, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Emmanuel Y, Cheeseman J, Dorrington KL, Edwards LM, Humphreys SM, Lappin TRJ, McMullin MF, McNamara CJ, Mills W, Murphy JA, O’Connor DF, Percy MJ, Ratcliffe PJ, Smith TG, Treacy M, Frayn KN, Greenhaff PL, Karpe F, Clarke K, & Robbins PA (2010). Regulation of human metabolism by hypoxia-inducible factor. PNAS 107, 12722 – 12727. <PMID: 20616028>

Beall CM, Cavalleri GL, Deng L, Elston RC, Gao Y, Knight J, Li C, Li JC, Liang Y, McCormack M, Montgomery HE, Pan H, Robbins PA, Shianna KV, Tam SC, Tsering N, Veeramah KR, Wang W, Wangdui P, Weale ME, Xu Y, Xu Z, Yang L, Zaman MJ, Zeng C, Zhang L, Zhang X, Zhaxi P, & Zheng YT (2010). Natural selection on EPAS1 (HIF2 ) associated with low hemoglobin concentration in Tibetan highlanders. PNAS 107, 11459 – 11464. <PMID: 20534544>

Smith TG, Talbot NP, Privat C, Rivera-Ch M, Nickol AH, Ratcliffe PJ, Dorrington KL, Leon-Velarde F, & Robbins PA (2009). Effects of iron supplementation and depletion on hypoxic pulmonary hypertension: Two randomized controlled trials. JAMA 302, 1444 – 1450. <PMID: 19809026>

Smith TG, Brooks JT, Balanos GM, Lappin TR, Layton DM, Leedham DL, Liu C. Maxwell PH, McMullin MF, McNamara CJ, Percy MJ, Pugh CW, Ratcliffe PJ, Talbot NP, Treacy M, & Robbins PA (2006). Mutation of von Hippel-Lindau tumor supressor and human cardiopulmonary physiology. PLoS Med 3, e290. <PMID: 16768548>