Roy Parker headshot (photo courtesy of HHMI)
Distinguished Professor • Cech-Leinwand Endowed Chair of Biochemistry

Office: JSCBB B414
Lab: JSCBB B450
Lab Phone: 303-735-7506, 303-735-7660


PhD: University of California, San Francisco
Postdoctoral Fellow: University of Massachusetts, Worcester

Areas of Expertise

Cancer Biology, Cell Signaling, Gene Expression and Regulation, Genetics and Chemical Biology, Innate Immunity, Neuroscience and Neurodegenerative Disease, Nucleic Acids, Infectious Disease, and Virology.

Awards and Honors

  • 2018 Distinguished Professor, University of Colorado Boulder
  • 2012 National Academy of Sciences Member
  • 2010 President, The RNA Society
  • 2010 American Academy of Arts & Sciences Fellow
  • 2003 Galileo Fellow
  • 2003 Regents' Professor, University of Arizona
  • 1990 Searle Scholarship

Work in the Parker lab focuses on understanding the expression, location, and function of eukaryotic RNAs and their connection to human disease.

One focus of work is to understand RNP granules, which are large assemblies of RNA and protein in eukaryotic cells. We discovered that RNP granules are formed, at least in part, by promiscuous intermolecular RNA-RNA interactions, which suggests that RNP granules are analogous to protein aggregates. Consistent with this view, we discovered cells contain abundant RNA chaperones that limit promiscuous RNA interactions and allow RNAs to maintain their function. Current areas of work are to understand the breadth of the “RNA Chaperone Network” and how defects in this network lead to neurological diseases.

A second focus of the lab is to understand how tau protein, which is an RNA binding protein, forms fibrillar protein aggregates and is toxic to neurons. This is important since aggregation of tau protein is responsible for ~75% of dementia caused by neurodegeneration. We have discovered that tau aggregates also contain RNA and preferentially grow off the surface of distinct RNP granules in the nucleus or cytoplasm. Current areas of work are to understand the biochemical interactions that promote tau fiber growth in cells, how those can be prevented, and how the interaction of tau with RNA affects neuronal health.

Additional work in the lab is focused on how the addition, and removal, of short oligo(A) tails to non-coding RNAs regulates their degradation rate. In this system, the addition of oligo(A) tails recruits processive 3’ exonucleases that degrade the non-coding RNA. In contrast, specific “de-tailing” enzymes can remove the oligo(A) tail and thereby protect the RNA from degradation. Strikingly, mutations in the three enzymes that remove the oligo(A) tails led to specific human diseases, which can be rescued in the laboratory by inhibiting the tail addition enzymes. Current work in this area is to understand the range of RNAs regulated by this pathway and how our understanding can be utilized to develop new disease treatments.

See my NCBI bibliography for a full and up-to-date list

  • Lester, E., Ooi, F.K., Bakkar, N., Ayers, J., Woerman, A.L., Wheeler, J., Bowser, R., Carlson, G.A., Prusiner, S.B. and R. Parker. (2021) Tau aggregates are RNA-protein assemblies that mislocalize multiple nuclear speckle components. Neuron 109(10):1675-1691.
  • Tauber, D., Tauber, G., Khong, A., Van Treeck, B., Pelletier, J. and R. Parker. (2020) Modulation of RNA condensation by the DEAD-box protein eIF4A. Cell 180:411-426.e16
  • USB1 is a miRNA deadenylase that regulates hematopoietic development. Jeong HC, Shukla S, Fok WC, Huynh TN, Batista LFZ, Parker R. Science. 2023 Mar 3;379(6635):901-907.
  • Cytosolic condensates rich in polyserine define subcellular sites of tau aggregation. Lester E, Van Alstyne M, McCann KL, Reddy S, Cheng LY, Kuo J, Pratt J, Parker R. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Jan 17;120(3):e2217759120