Dr. Claire Walczak

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Executive Director, IU Light Microscopy Imaging Center

Research Interests

The major goal of mitosis is to distribute the genetic material accurately between the two daughter cells. This process requires the mitotic spindle, which is a complex subcellular assembly composed of microtubules and associated proteins. Defects in mitosis result in aneuploidy, wherein cells receive the incorrect number of chromosomes, and is a hallmark of cancer. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms that control mitosis is of fundamental biomedical importance.

Our lab takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the roles of proteins that control spindle assembly and chromosome segregation and how those proteins are both temporally and spatially regulated. We use structure/function analysis with purified proteins, biophysical analysis of single molecules, reconstitution of spindle formation using meiotic extracts from Xenopus eggs, and high-resolution live and fixed cell imaging of cells in culture. In addition, we are developing a number of high-throughput assays for the identification of small molecule inhibitors that could be used in therapeutic development.  Our approach provides a framework to decipher the molecular mechanisms of spindle assembly and chromosome segregation. Our ultimate goals are to identify new molecular targets that can be used to treat a variety of diseases in which altered microtubule activity is critical and to develop drugs that can target these regulators. 



Selected Publications

  • Walczak, C.E., Gayek, S, and Ohi, R. (in press) Microtubule Depolymerizing Kinesins.  Annu. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol.  
  • Akhtar A, Fuchs E, Mitchison T, Shaw RJ, St Johnston D, Strasser A, Taylor S, Walczak C, Zerial M. (2011)  A Decade of Molecular Cell Biology: Achievements and Challenges. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 12:669-674. PMID:  21941276
  • Walczak, C.E., Rizk, R.S, and Shaw, S.L.  (2010). The Use of Fluorescence Redistribution after Photobleaching for Analysis of Cellular Microtubule Dynamics.  Methods Cell Biol. 97:35-52.  PMID: 20719264
  • Walczak, C.E., Shaw S.L. (2010).  A MAP for Bundling Microtubules.  Cell. 142:364-7. PMID: 20691897.
  • Ems-McClung, S.C. and Walczak, C. E. (2010). Kinesin 13s in Mitosis: Key Players in the Spatial and Temporal Organization of Spindle Microtubules.  Sem. In Cell. Dev. Biology. 21:276-82. PMID: 20109574.
  • Walczak, C.E., Cai, S., and Khodjakov, A. (2010).  Chromosome Motility During Mitosis.  Nature Reviews Mol. Cell Biology.  11:  91-102 PMID: 20068571
  • Huang, R., Oh, H., Arrendale, A., Martin, V.A., Galan, J., Workman, E.J., Stout, J.R., Walczak, C.E., Tao, W.A., Borch, R.F., Geahlen, R.L. (2013). Intracellular Targets for a Phosphotyrosine Peptidomimetic Include the Mitotic Kinesin, MCAK.  Biochem. Pharmacol. Jul 3- epub ahead of print.  PMID 23830822
  • Weaver, L.N., Ems-McClung, S.C., Stout, J.R., LeBlanc, C., Shaw, S.L. Gardner, M.K., and Walczak, C.E. (2011).  Ki18A Utilizes a Microtubule Binding Site in the Tail for Plus-end Localization and Spindle Length Regulation.  Curr. Biol. 21:1500-1506. PMID: 21885282
  • Stout, J.R., Yount, A.L., Powers, J.A., LeBlanc, C., Ems-McClung, S.C., and Walczak, C.E. (2011).  Kif18B Interacts with EB1 and Controls Astral Microtubule Length during Mitosis. Mol. Biol. Cell. 22:3070-3080. Epub 2011 Jul 7. PMID:21737685.
  • Cai, S., Weaver, L.N., Ems-McClung, S.C., and Walczak, C.E. (2010). Proper Organization of Microtubule Minus-Ends is Needed for Midzone Stability and Cytokinesis.  Curr. Biol. 20:880-5. PMID: 20434340.
  • Cai, S., O’Connell, Khodjakov, A.  and Walczak, C.E. (2009). Chromosome Congression in the Absence of K-fibres. Nat. Cell Biol.  11: 832-838.  PMID:  19525938
  • Rizk, R., Bohannon, K., Wetzel, L., Powers, J.A., Shaw, S.L, and Walczak, C.E. (2009). MCAK and Paclitaxel Have Differential Effects on Spindle Organization and Microtubule Dynamics. Mol. Biol. Cell. 20:1639-1651. PMID:  19158381

Awards and Honors

  • Elected to ASCB  Council (2013)
  • American Cancer Society Research Scholar (2003)
  • Women in Cell Biology Junior Career Recognition Award from American Society for Cell Biology (2003)
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Scholar Award (2001)


  • Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Adjunct Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
  • Adjunct Professor of Biology
  • Member, Interdisciplinary Biochemistry Graduate Program

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