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Wojcik, Edward, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
1901 Perdido St., Box P7-2
Medical Education Building Room 7128
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 568-2058
Lab: (504) 568-5572
Fax: (504) 568-2093

Click here for a link to ongoing research in this laboratory.

Selected Publications

Complete list of Dr. Wojcik's Publications

Small molecule screen for candidate antimalarials targeting Plasmodium Kinesin-5.

Plasmodium falciparum and vivax are responsible for the majority of malaria infections worldwide, resulting in over a million deaths annually. Malaria parasites now show measured resistance to all currently utilized drugs. Novel antimalarial drugs are urgently needed. The Plasmodium Kinesin-5 mechanoenzyme is a suitable "next generation" target. Discovered via small molecule screen experiments, the human Kinesin-5 has multiple allosteric sites that are "druggable." One site in particular, unique in its sequence divergence across all homologs in the superfamily and even within the same family, exhibits exquisite drug specificity. We propose that Plasmodium Kinesin-5 shares this allosteric site and likewise can be targeted to uncover inhibitors with high specificity. To test this idea, we performed a screen for inhibitors selective for Plasmodium Kinesin-5 ATPase activity in parallel with human Kinesin-5. Our screen of nearly 2000 compounds successfully identified compounds that selectively inhibit both P. vivax and falciparum Kinesin-5 motor domains but, as anticipated, do not impact human Kinesin-5 activity. Of note is a candidate drug that did not biochemically compete with the ATP substrate for the conserved active site or disrupt the microtubule-binding site. Together, our experiments identified MMV666693 as a selective allosteric inhibitor of Plasmodium Kinesin-5; this is the first identified protein target for the Medicines of Malaria Venture validated collection of parasite proliferation inhibitors. This work demonstrates that chemical screens against human kinesins are adaptable to homologs in disease organisms and, as such, extendable to strategies to combat infectious disease.

Liu L, Richard J, Kim S, Wojcik E. Small molecule screen for candidate antimalarials targeting Plasmodium Kinesin-5. Journal of Biological Chemistry [Internet]. 2014 Jun 6;289(23):16601–14. Retrieved from: PMCID: PMC4047425


Kinesin-5: cross-bridging mechanism to targeted clinical therapy.

Kinesin motor proteins comprise an ATPase superfamily that works hand in hand with microtubules in every eukaryote. The mitotic kinesins, by virtue of their potential therapeutic role in cancerous cells, have been a major focus of research for the past 28 years since the discovery of the canonical Kinesin-1 heavy chain. Perhaps the simplest player in mitotic spindle assembly, Kinesin-5 (also known as Kif11, Eg5, or kinesin spindle protein, KSP) is a plus-end-directed motor localized to interpolar spindle microtubules and to the spindle poles. Comprised of a homotetramer complex, its function primarily is to slide anti-parallel microtubules apart from one another. Based on multi-faceted analyses of this motor from numerous laboratories over the years, we have learned a great deal about the function of this motor at the atomic level for catalysis and as an integrated element of the cytoskeleton. These data have, in turn, informed the function of motile kinesins on the whole, as well as spearheaded integrative models of the mitotic apparatus in particular and regulation of the microtubule cytoskeleton in general. We review what is known about how this nanomotor works, its place inside the cytoskeleton of cells, and its small-molecule inhibitors that provide a toolbox for understanding motor function and for anticancer treatment in the clinic.

Wojcik E, Buckley RS, Richard J, Liu L, Huckaba TM, Kim S. Kinesin-5: cross-bridging mechanism to targeted clinical therapy. Gene [Internet]. 2013 Dec 1;531(2):133–49. Retrieved from: PMCID: PMC3801170


Loop 5-directed compounds inhibit chimeric kinesin-5 motors: implications for conserved allosteric mechanisms.

The human Eg5 (HsEg5) protein is unique in its sensitivity to allosteric agents even among phylogenetic kin. For example, S-trityl-l-cysteine (STC) and monastrol are HsEg5 inhibitors that bind to a surface pocket created by the L5 loop, but neither compound inhibits the Drosophila Kinesin-5 homologue (Klp61F). Herein we ask whether or not drug sensitivity can be designed into Klp61F. Two chimeric Klp61F motor domains were engineered, bacterially expressed, and purified to test this idea. We report that effector binding can elicit a robust allosteric response comparable with HsEg5 in both motor domain chimeras. Furthermore, isothermal titration calorimetry confirms that the Klp61F chimeras have de novo binding affinities for both STC and monastrol. These data show that the mechanism of intramolecular communication between the three ligand binding sites is conserved in the Kinesin-5 family, and reconstitution of a drug binding cassette within the L5 pocket is sufficient to restore allosteric inhibition. However, the two compounds were not equivalent in their allosteric inhibition. This surprising disparity in the response between the chimeras to monastrol and STC suggests that there is more than one allosteric communication network for these effectors.

Liu L, Parameswaran S, Liu J, Kim S, Wojcik E. Loop 5-directed compounds inhibit chimeric kinesin-5 motors: implications for conserved allosteric mechanisms. Journal of Biological Chemistry [Internet]. 2011 Feb 25;286(8):6201–10. Retrieved from: PMCID: PMC3057856


ATP hydrolysis in Eg5 kinesin involves a catalytic two-water mechanism.

Motor proteins couple steps in ATP binding and hydrolysis to conformational switching both in and remote from the active site. In our kinesin.AMPPPNP crystal structure, closure of the active site results in structural transformations appropriate for microtubule binding and organizes an orthosteric two-water cluster. We conclude that a proton is shared between the lytic water, positioned for gamma-phosphate attack, and a second water that serves as a general base. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental detection of the catalytic base for any ATPase. Deprotonation of the second water by switch residues likely triggers subsequent large scale structural rearrangements. Therefore, the catalytic base is responsible for initiating nucleophilic attack of ATP and for relaying the positive charge over long distances to initiate mechanotransduction. Coordination of switch movements via sequential proton transfer along paired water clusters may be universal for nucleotide triphosphatases with conserved active sites, such as myosins and G-proteins.

Parke CL, Wojcik E, Kim S, Worthylake DK. ATP hydrolysis in Eg5 kinesin involves a catalytic two-water mechanism. Journal of Biological Chemistry [Internet]. 2010 Feb 19;285(8):5859–67. Retrieved from: PMCID: PMC2820811