Wojciech Pokrzywa Lab

Who we are

We are a research lab located at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw, one of the best research institutions in Poland.

We focus on the mechanisms of protein metabolism - maintenance of the balance between the synthesis and degradation of proteins. We explore the regulation of translation, ubiquitin-proteasome system, chaperone network, and muscular exophers in proteostasis. However, we are sometimes intrigued by topics outside this list.

In Pokrzywa lab, we use a combination of biochemical, microscopic, molecular genetics, and bioinformatics techniques, supported by mammalian cell assays and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.


Scheme of impact of cold on transcriptome and proteome
Cellular adaptation to cold

To counteract cold, organisms developed various types of responses, ranging from cold avoidance to adaptation. The latter strategy is used by hibernating animals, which, in extreme cases, can survive subzero temperatures for many days. We focus on deciphering mechanisms altering the abundance and types of cellular messenger RNAs and proteins, as these kinds of molecules are critical for the live-or-die decision of the cell. As in some disease states, like stroke, cooling can facilitate a patient's recovery, understanding how cells adapt to cold has the potential to influence treatments of human disorders.

Scheme of myosin assembly
Stress-induced myosin folding and assembly mechanisms

Little is known about the regulation of muscle-specific response programs that coordinate protein quality control upon mechanical stress and in human disease. We established a Caenorhabditis elegans-centered array of experimental approaches for the in-depth investigation of myosin-directed stress induction mechanisms. The long-term objective of this project is to understand how protein folding and degradation networks are coordinated with the dynamics of myosin assembly, muscle integrity, and repair in the context of mechanical stress. 

Scheme of a lysine desert protein
Adaptation of proteins to evade premature degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system

The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is a major pathway that removes damaged and unwanted proteins. The proteasome recognizes ubiquitinated proteins – tagged with a small protein named ubiquitin and degrades them. Ubiquitin is mainly attached to lysine residues of the protein destined for degradation in a process termed ubiquitination. However, the UPS must effectively eliminate only undesirable proteins while leaving the functional and essential ones intact. An intuitive mechanism of a proteome susceptible to premature ubiquitination is to avoid lysines in critical domains or entire sequences, potentially leaving a few whose ubiquitination can be precisely controlled. In our research we aim to decipher the role of lysine-less regions in protein turnover and to develop an analytical method to catalog and study the role of non-lysine ubiquitination by applying biochemical and proteomic approaches and deep learning.

Scheme of muscular exopheresis
Mechanisms of muscular exophergenesis

We discovered that large extracellular vesicles, termed exophers, that attribute in neurons and cardiomyocytes and carry damaged subcellular components, are released by muscles to support embryonic growth in Caenorhabditis elegans. Our results demonstrate that an exopher formation ( exophergenesis) represents a transgenerational metabolic/resource management system that supports embryos in utero. Currently, we investigate the mechanism of exopher formation and the regulation of exophergenesis at the molecular level.

Schema of E3 ligase complex
E3 ligase complexes in the integration of proteostasis and aging

From their synthesis to destruction, the fate of eukaryotic proteins is supervised by the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). Cooperation of E3 ligases, essential components of the UPS that recognize damaged or misfolded proteins, can lead to the formation of alternative ubiquitylation structures that aid in directing substrate specificity. We investigate how specific E3 ligase pairs determine substrate recruitment and ubiquitin chain formation to coordinate proteolytic networks. Understanding the function and identifying the signals that coordinate the interaction between E3 ligases will provide information on how proteolytic networks are tuned to maintain cellular proteostasis in health and disease.


February 2023 | New article

Aging iron impact

Together with the group of Dr. Katarzyna Mleczko-Sanecka from our Institute, we have published an article showing that defects in red pulp macrophages - cells responsible for maintaining blood homeostasis - occur in early aging and disrupt iron turnover, contributing to anemia in elderly age.

We are very proud of this intra-institute collaboration and look forward to more thrilling joint research!

January 2023 | New preprint

Lysine desert definitions

We have published a preprint describing our research on lysine-less proteins, so-called lysine deserts. We explored their prevalence, evolutionary conservation, and possible functional roles in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In addition, using the example of lysine-free variants of VHL and SOCS1 proteins, we showed that they can undergo non-lysine ubiquitination and proteasome-dependent turnover which is independent of their ubiquitination.

January 2023 | New article

protocol graphical abstract

We have just published a detailed protocol for quantifying muscle exophers in C. elegans. We hope that our resource will be useful to the scientific community in performing cutting-edge studies of these exciting extracellular vesicles.

December 2022 | New preprint published

exopher graphical abstract

Together with the group of Dr. Michał Turek from the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, we released a preprint where we show how sex-specific pheromones and olfactory neurons regulate muscle extracellular vesicles (exophers) in C. elegans.
Our findings may imply the existence of an analogous mechanism regulating cardiomyocyte exophers, which contributes to the risk of cardiovascular disease in humans.

December 2022 | Our presence at the PhasAGE conference

CHIP protein in nucleolus

We congratulate our senior researcher Małgorzata on giving a talk about nucleolar proteostasis control at the Biomolecular condensates in biology and disease conference organized by the PhasAGE consortium in Brussels. We hope our data shed some light on the relation between CHIP ubiquitin ligase and nucleolus in cellular stress and phase separation.

November 2022 | New preprint

Putative degron sites in filaggrin protein

Together with the group of Dr. Danuta Owsiak-Gutowska from the University of Gdańsk, we released a preprint where we shed some light on the degradation routes of filaggrin, an important protein in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis.

We show the involvement of the proteasome in filaggrin turnover and we describe filaggrin's potential degron sites and their effect on its mutated variants associated with the disease.

November 2022 | A Fulbrighter from our lab

Fulbright cover

We would like to congratulate our Ph.D. student Natalia on receiving the prestigious Fulbright Junior Research Award for the research stay at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

November 2022 | New article

Aldicarb sensitivity assay

We are pleased that our collaboration with Prof. Rafał Płoski from the Medical University of Warsaw and Prof. Maria Mazurkiewicz-Bełdzińska from the Medical University of Gdańsk has resulted in a joint publication where we link an uncharacterized neurological disease with an ultra-rare mutation in FEM1C ubiquitin ligase.
In our article, we present the first evidence from an animal model, Caenorhabditis elegans nematode, suggesting that a mutation in the conserved FEM1C Asp126 position causes a neurodevelopmental disorder in humans.

October 2022 | Our presence
at the Rare Disease Congres

Wojciech presenting at the Rare Disease Congres

We are very grateful for the invitation to the Rare Disease Congres in Cracow from the Jesteśmy Pod Ścianą Foundation, an NGO supporting patients with rare diseases. Our PI, Wojciech, and Ph.D. student, Natalia, presented our research on an uncharacterized neurodevelopmental disorder caused by an ultra-rare mutation in the FEM1C ubiquitin ligase and chorea-acanthocytosis. We hope that our research will contribute to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these diseases.



Impaired iron recycling from erythrocytes is an early hallmark of aging
Slusarczyk P., Mandal P.K., Zurawska, G. Niklewicz M., Chouhan K., Mahadeva R., Jończy A., Macias M., Szybinska A., Cybulska-Lubak M., Krawczyk O., Herman S., Mikula M., Serwa R., Lenartowicz M., Pokrzywa W. & Mleczko-Sanecka K.
doi: 10.7554/eLife.79196 

Lysine-deficient proteome can be regulated through non-canonical ubiquitination and ubiquitin-independent proteasomal degradation
Szulc N.A.*, Piechota M., Thapa P., & Pokrzywa W.*
doi: 10.1101/2023.01.18.524605 

Structural Interaction Fingerprints and Machine Learning for predicting and explaining binding of small molecule ligands to RNA
Szulc N.A.*, Mackiewicz Z., Bujnicki J.M.* & Stefaniak F.*
doi: 10.1101/2023.01.11.523582 

Preparation of Caenorhabditis elegans for Scoring of Muscle-derived Exophers
Banasiak K.*, Turek M.* & Pokrzywa W.*
doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4586

bolded - member of the Pokrzywa lab
* corresponding author
equal contribution


Pheromone-dependent olfaction bidirectionally regulates muscle extracellular vesicles formation
Banasiak K., Szczepańska A., Kołodziejska K., Tudu Ibrahim A., Pokrzywa W.* & Turek M.*
doi: 10.1101/2022.12.22.521669 

In silico analysis of the profilaggrin sequence indicates alterations in the stability, degradation route, and intracellular protein fate in filaggrin null mutation carriers
Paul A.A., Szulc N.A., Kobiela A., Brown S.J., Pokrzywa W.* & Owsiak-Gutowska D.*
Research Square
doi: 10.21203/ 

A novel de novo FEM1C variant is linked to neurodevelopmental disorder with absent speech, pyramidal signs, and limb ataxia
Dubey A.A., Krygier M., Szulc N.A., Rutkowska K., Kosinska J., Pollak A., Rydzanicz M., Kmiec T., Mazurkiewicz-Beldzinska M., Pokrzywa W.* & Ploski R.*
Human Molecular Genetics
doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac276 

A dimer-monomer switch controls CHIP-dependent substrate ubiquitylation and processing
Balaji V., Müller L., Lorenz R., Kevei E., Zhang W.H., Santiago U., Gebauer J., Llamas E., Vilchez D., Camacho C.J., Pokrzywa W. & Hoppe T.
Molecular Cell
doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2022.08.003 

Ferritin-mediated iron detoxification promotes hypothermia survival in Caenorhabditis elegans and murine neurons
Pekec T., Lewandowski J., Komur A.A., Sobańska D., Guo Y., Świtońska-Kurkowska K., Małecki J.M., Dubey A.A., Pokrzywa W, Frankowski M., Figiel M. & Ciosk R.
Nature Communications
doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32500-z 

A heterotypic assembly mechanism regulates CHIP E3 ligase activity
Das, A., Thapa, P., Santiago, U., Shanmugam, N., Banasiak, K., Dabrowska, K., Nolte, H., Szulc, N.A., Gathungu, R. M., Cysewski, D., Krueger, M., Dadlez, M., Nowotny, M., Camacho, C. J., Hoppe, T., & Pokrzywa, W.*
EMBO Journal
doi: 10.15252/embj.2021109566 

fingeRNAt - a novel tool for high-throughput analysis of nucleic acid-ligand interactions
Szulc, N.A.*, Mackiewicz, Z., Bujnicki, J.M.*, & Stefaniak F.*
PLOS Computational Biology
doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009783 

DEGRONOPEDIA - a web server for proteome-wide inspection of degrons
Szulc N.A.*, Stefaniak F., Piechota M., Cappannini A., Bujnicki J.M. & Pokrzywa W.*
doi: 10.1101/2022.05.19.492622 

CHIP ubiquitin ligase is involved in the nucleolar stress management
Piechota M.*, Biriczova L., Kowalski K., Szulc N.A. & Pokrzywa W.*
doi: 10.1101/2022.05.17.492288

A novel de novo FEM1C variant is linked to neurodevelopmental disorder with absent speech, pyramidal signs, and limb ataxia
Dubey A.A., Krygier M., Szulc N.A., Rutkowska K., Kosinska J., Pollak A., Rydzanicz M., Kmiec T., Mazurkiewicz-Beldzinska M., Pokrzywa W.* & Ploski R.*
doi: 10.1101/2022.04.24.489208

Impaired iron recycling from erythrocytes is an early iron-dependent hallmark of aging
Mandal, P. K., Slusarczyk P., Zurawska G., Cybulska M., Krawczyk O., Mikula M., Herman S., Lenartowicz M., Serwa R., Pokrzywa W., & Mleczko-Sanecka K.
doi: 10.1101/2022.01.16.476518

bolded - member of the Pokrzywa lab
* corresponding author
equal contribution


fingeRNAt - a novel tool for high-throughput analysis of nucleic acid-ligand interactions
Szulc, N.A.*, Mackiewicz, Z., Bujnicki, J.M.*, & Stefaniak F.*
doi: 10.1101/2021.12.23.474073 

Heterotypic assembly mechanism regulates CHIP E3 ligase activity
Das, A., Thapa, P., Santiago, U., Shanmugam, N., Banasiak, K., Dabrowska, K., Nolte, H., Szulc, N.A., Gathungu, R. M., Cysewski, D., Krueger, M., Dadlez, M., Nowotny, M., Camacho, C. J., Hoppe, T., & Pokrzywa, W.*
doi: 10.1101/2021.08.20.457118 

Muscle-derived exophers promote reproductive fitness
Turek, M., Banasiak, K., Piechota, M., Shanmugam, N., Macias, M., Śliwińska, M. A., Niklewicz, M., Kowalski, K., Nowak, N., Chacinska, A., & Pokrzywa, W.*
EMBO reports
doi: 10.15252/embr.202052071 

Maintaining proteostasis under mechanical stress
Höhfeld, J., Benzing, T., Bloch, W., Fürst, D.O., Gehlert, S., Hesse, M., Hoffmann, B., Hoppe, T., Huesgen, P.F., Köhn, M., Kolanus, W., Merkel, R., Niessen, C. M., Pokrzywa, W., Rinschen, M.M., Wachten, D., & Warscheid, B.
EMBO reports
doi: 10.15252/embr.202152507 

The dose-dependent pleiotropic effects of the UBB+1 ubiquitin mutant
Banasiak, K., Szulc, N.A., & Pokrzywa, W.*
Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences
doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2021.650730

bolded - member of the Pokrzywa lab
* corresponding author


The ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBE2K determines neurogenic potential through histone H3 in human embryonic stem cells
Fatima, A., Irmak, D., Noormohammadi, A., Rinschen, M.M., Das, A., Leidecker, O., Schindler, C., Sánchez-Gaya, V., Wagle, P., Pokrzywa, W., Hoppe, T., Rada-Iglesias, A., & Vilchez, D.
Communications Biology
doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-0984-3 

Ubiquitin signaling regulates RNA biogenesis, processing, and metabolism
Thapa, P., Shanmugam, N., & Pokrzywa, W.*
doi: 10.1002/bies.201900171

CHIP ubiquitylates NOXA and induces its lysosomal degradation in response to DNA damage
Albert, M.-C., Brinkmann, K., Pokrzywa, W., Günther, S. D., Krönke, M., Hoppe, T., & Kashkar, H.
Cell Death & Disease
doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-02923-x 

Bioshell 3.0: Library for processing structural biology data
Macnar, J.M., Szulc, N.A., Kryś, J.D., Badaczewska-Dawid, A.E., & Gront, D.
doi: 10.3390/biom10030461 

Pathogenic variants in the myosin chaperone UNC-45B cause progressive myopathy with eccentric cores
Donkervoort, S., Kutzner, C. E., Hu, Y., Lornage, X., Rendu, J., Stojkovic, T., Baets, J., Neuhaus, S.B., Tanboon, J., Maroofian, R., Bolduc, V., Mroczek, M., Conijn, S., Kuntz, N. L., Töpf, A., Monges, S., Lubieniecki, F., McCarty, R. M., Chao, K. R., Governali, S., Böhm, J., Boonyapisit, K., Malfatti, E., Sangruchi, T., Horkayne-Szakaly, I., Hedberg-Oldfors, C., Efthymiou, S., Noguchi, S., Djeddi, S., Iida, A., di Rosa, G., Fiorillo, C., Salpietro, V., Darin, N., Faure, J., Houlden, H., Oldfors, A., Nishino, I., de Ridder, W., Straub, V., Pokrzywa, W., Laporte, J., Foley, R., Romero, N.B., Ottenheijm, C., Hoppe, T., & Bönnemann, C.G.
The American Journal of Human Genetics
doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.11.002

bolded - member of the Pokrzywa lab
* corresponding author


Ubiquitylation pathways in insulin signaling and organismal homeostasis
Balaji, V., Pokrzywa, W., & Hoppe, T.
doi: 10.1002/bies.201700223 

The ubiquitin ligase UBR5 suppresses proteostasis collapse in pluripotent stem cells from Huntington’s disease patients
Koyuncu, S., Saez, I., Lee, H. J., Gutierrez-Garcia, R., Pokrzywa, W., Fatima, A., Hoppe, T., & Vilchez, D.
Nature Communications
doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05320-3

bolded - member of the Pokrzywa lab
equal contribution


Chaperone-directed ubiquitylation maintains proteostasis at the expense of longevity
Pokrzywa, W., Lorenz, R., & Hoppe, T.
doi: 10.1080/21624054.2017.137140 

CHIPped balance of proteostasis and longevity
Pokrzywa, W., & Hoppe, T.
doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.22101 

Repair or destruction - an intimate liaison between ubiquitin ligases and molecular chaperones in proteostasis
Kevei, É., Pokrzywa, W., & Hoppe, T.
FEBS Letters
doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.12750

bolded - member of the Pokrzywa lab
equal contribution


In the Pokrzywa lab, in addition to standard equipment and a coffee machine, we have several state-of-the-art research instruments for worms and proteins analysis, including:

WormLab® Imaging System

ScreenChip™ System



ZEISS Axio Zoom.V16 Fluorescence Microscope

ÄKTA Go Protein Purification System


Logos of funding agencies
Open grants
Closed grants


Principal Investigator

Photo of Dr. Wojciech Pokrzywa

Wojciech Pokrzywa, Ph.D., D.Sc.

During his Ph.D. studies at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, Wojciech Pokrzywa investigated the function of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in regulating membrane protein localization in yeast. In 2009, he joined the laboratory of Prof. Thorsten Hoppe at the University of Cologne, Germany, where he studied the mechanisms of proteostasis during development and aging in Caenorhabditis elegans.
In mid-2017, he started his own research group in Warsaw focusing on the mechanisms of protein metabolism regulation.

Lab Members

Photo of lab members

Senior Researchers 

Małgorzata Piechota, Ph.D.


Abhishek Dubey, Ph.D.

Laboratory Support Specialists 

Anna Grabowska, Ph.D.

Marta Niklewicz, M.Sc.

Lilla Biriczová, M.Sc.


Aniruddha Das, M.Sc.

Pankaj Thapa, M.Sc.

Pratik Kumar Mandal, M.Sc.

Katarzyna Banasiak, M.Sc.

Natalia Szulc, M.Sc.

Anwesha Sarkar, M.Sc.

Join Us

Are you interested in molecular mechanisms of proteostasis? Are you looking for a passionate group of scientists with an exceptionally friendly working atmosphere? Why not join the Pokrzywa lab?

We are always looking for highly motivated individuals eager to pursue research in our group. If you are interested in possible future opportunities, please send us your CV.


Principal Investigator

Wojciech Pokrzywa, Ph.D., D.Sc. 

Phone: +48 22 597 07 43

Laboratory Manager

Anna Grabowska, Ph.D.

Phone: +48 22 597 07 77


Laboratory of Protein Metabolism

International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw

4 Ks. Trojdena Street

02-109 Warsaw, Poland 

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