Walid A. Houry

Walid A. Houry


BSc, American University of Beirut, 1990
MSc, Cornell University, 1991
PhD, Cornell University, 1996
Postdoc, Sloan-Kettering Institute, 1997
Postdoc, Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry, 2000

Address 661 University Avenue, MaRS Centre
West Tower, Room 1612
Toronto, ON M5G 1M1
Lab Houry Lab
Lab Phone 416-946-7364
Office Phone 416-946-7141
Email walid.houry@utoronto.ca

Dr. Walid A. Houry is Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. Dr. Houry obtained his MSc (1991) and PhD (1996) from Cornell University and then did his postdoctoral training at the Sloan-Kettering Institute (1996-1997) in New York City and at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry (1997-2000) in Munich, Germany. He is interested in the general area of cellular stress responses and the role of molecular chaperones and ATP-dependent proteases in these responses. Dr. Houry is also heavily involved in the general scientific community in several capacities.

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Research Lab

The ultimate aim of our projects is to address the fundamental question of how molecular chaperones and ATP-dependent proteases modulate protein folding in the cell.  To this end, the group utilizes various structural, biophysical, biochemical, proteomic, and cell biological approaches to understand the mechanism of function of these chaperones and proteases. We are also interested in the development of novel anticancers and antibiotics by identifying compounds that target these chaperones and proteases and result in the dysregulation of protein homeostasis in the cell.

Learn more: Houry Lab

Research Description

Cellular Protein Homeostasis Research Group

There are three main projects in my laboratory. One is on the R2TP chaperone complex, the second one is on the Clp system, and the third one is on mapping the chaperone interaction network. The three projects deal with the common theme of cellular stress response. We are also interested in identifying compounds that target protein cellular homeostasis and that can be developed as anticancers or antibacterials.

R2TP chaperone complex

Maintaining protein homeostasis in the cell is mainly accomplished by a family of proteins termed molecular chaperones that assist in protein folding. My group identified a highly conserved protein complex, which we named the R2TP complex, that interacts with several other chaperones and adaptor proteins. R2TP consists of the proteins RUVBL1, RUVBL2, RPAP3, and PIH1D1. R2TP acts as a scaffold for the assembly of other critical complexes in the cell. Hence, R2TP has a novel cellular activity dedicated to protein assembly. The aim of the proposed project is to determine the structure and mechanism of function of this complex using cell biological, biochemical, and structural approaches. We are also interested in identifying compounds that inhibit this complex. Hence, the project sheds further insights into the role of chaperones in general and R2TP in particular in cancer.

Clp degradation complex

Our work on the Clp system provided important insights into the function of this chaperone-protease system, especially as regards to its structure and dynamics. Our initial work concentrated on ClpXP from E. coli. ClpX is a hexameric ATP-dependent unfoldase chaperone, while ClpP is a serine protease that forms a cylindrical tetradecamer with narrow axial pores for substrate entry. In the ClpXP complex, ClpX binds target substrates, unfolds them and threads them into ClpP for degradation. We discovered that the mechanism of release of degradation products from the cylindrical protease ClpP is through the formation of transient equatorial side pores that allow for peptide egress. We also discovered compounds that dysregulate ClpP and that have antibacterial activity. Hence, our research in this field sheds novel insights into bacterial infectivity. We are also interested in understanding the function of the ClpXP system in different other organisms including humans.

Mapping chaperone interaction networks

Molecular chaperones are essential components of a quality control machinery present in the cell. They can either aid in the folding and maintenance of newly translated proteins or they can lead to the degradation of misfolded and destabilized proteins. They are also known to be involved in many cellular functions, however, a detailed and comprehensive overview of the interactions between chaperones and their cofactors and substrates is still absent. The heat shock proteins Hsp90, Hsp70/Hsp40, and Hsp60/Hsp10 are typical chaperone systems that are highly conserved across organisms. In this project, we are carrying out systematic mapping of the chaperone interaction networks using a wide range of proteomic and genomic methods. The ultimate goal of the project is to determine the mechanisms that govern protein homeostasis inside the cell.

Awards & Distinctions

2021 — Invited full member of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society
2018 — Faculty Opinions (previously F1000Prime) Faculty Member
2015 — Visiting Scientist Award, National Research Foundation of South Africa
2011 — Tokyo Biochemical Research Foundation Award
2001-2006 — Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator
2002-2005 — Premier’s Research Excellence Award
1997-2000 — Fellow of the Max-Planck-Institute
1996-1997 — Fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Courses Taught

BCH 2024H Molecular chaperones and cellular protein homeostasis
BCH374Y1 Research Project in Biochemistry
JBB2026H Protein Structure, Folding and Design
BCH473Y Advanced Research Project in Biochemistry
BCH440H (BCH1440H) Protein Homeostasis


View all publications on PubMed

Potent ClpP Agonists with Anticancer Properties Bind with Improved Structural Complementarity and Alter the Mitochondrial N-Terminome
Mabanglo, M. F., Wong, K. S., Barghash, M. M., Leung, E., Chuang, S. H. W., Ardalan, A., Majaesic, E. M., Wong, C. J., Zhang, S., Lang, H., Karanewsky, D. S., Iwanowicz, A. A., Graves, L. M., Iwanowicz, E. J., Gingras, A.-C., & Houry, W. A.
Structure 31, 1–16 (2023)  Read

Assembly Principles of the Human R2TP Chaperone Complex Reveal the Presence of R2T and R2P Complexes
Seraphim, T. V., Nano, N., Cheung, Y. W. S., Aluksanasuwan, S., Colleti, C., Mao, Y.-Q., Bhandari, V., Young, G., Höll, L., Phanse, S., Gordiyenko, Y., Southworth, D. R., Robinson, C. V., Thongboonkerd, V., Gava, L. M., Borges, J. C., Babu, M., Barbosa, L. R. S., Ramos, C. H. I., Kukura, P., & Houry, W. A.
Structure 30(1):156-171.e12 (2022)  Read

Functional Cooperativity Between the Trigger Factor Chaperone and the ClpXP Proteolytic Complex
Rizzolo, K., Yu, A. Y. H., Ologbenla, A., Kim, S.-R., Zhu, H., Ishimori, K., Thibault, G., Leung, E., Zhang, Y. W., Teng, M., Haniszewski, M., Miah, N., Phanse, S., Minic, Z., Lee, S., Caballero. J. D., Babu, M., Tsai, F. T. F., Saio, T., & Houry, W. A.
Nature Communications 12, article number 281, 1–18 (2021)  Read

Development of Antibiotics that Dysregulate the Neisserial ClpP Protease
Binepal, G., Mabanglo, M. F., Goodreid, J. D., Leung, E., Barghash, M. M., Wong, K. S., Lin, F., Cossette, M., Bansagi, J., Song, B., Serrão, V. H. B., Pai, E. F., Batey, R. A., Gray-Owen, S. D., & Houry, W. A.
ACS Infectious Disease 6(12), 3224−3236 (2020)  Read

ClpP Protease Activation Results from the Reorganization of the Electrostatic Interaction Networks at the Entrance Pores
Mabanglo, M. F., Leung, E., Vahidi, S., Seraphim, T. V., Eger, B. T., Bryson, S., Bhandari, V., Zhou, J. L., Mao, Y.-Q., Rizzolo, K., Barghash, M. M., Goodreid, J. D., Phanse, S., Babu, M., Barbosa, L. R. S., Ramos, C. H. I., Batey, R. A., Kay, L. E., Pai, E. F., & Houry, W. A.
Communications Biology 2(1), article number 410, 1-14 (2019)  Read

Acyldepsipeptide Analogs Dysregulate Human Mitochondrial ClpP Protease Activity and Cause Apoptotic Cell Death
Wong, K. S., Mabanglo, M. F., Seraphim, T. V., Mollica, A., Mao, Y.-Q., Rizzolo, K., Leung, E., Moutaoufik, M. T., Hoell, L., Phanse, S., Goodreid, J., Barbosa, L. R. S., Ramos, C. H. I., Babu, M., Mennella, V., Batey, R. A., Schimmer A. D., & Houry, W. A.
Cell Chemical Biology 25(8), 1017-1030 (2018)  Read

Features of the Chaperone Cellular Network Revealed through Systematic Interaction Mapping
Rizzolo, K., Huen, J., Kumar, A., Phanse, S., Vlasblom, J., Kakihara, Y., Zeineddine, H. A., Minic, Z., Snider, J., Wang, W., Pons, C., Seraphim, T. V., Boczek, E. E., Alberti, S., Costanzo, M., Myers, C. L., Stagljar, I., Boone, C., Babu, M., & Houry, W. A.
Cell Reports 20(11), 2735–2748 (2017)  Read