Benita Sjögren

Benita Sjögren Profile Picture

Assistant Professor, Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Ph.D., Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Contact Info:


Training Group(s):
Integrative Neuroscience
Chemical Biology
Membrane Biology

Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Current Research Interests:

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent the largest family of receptors and are important drug targets with 40-60% of currently FDA approved drugs targeting the receptors themselves or downstream mechanisms. One important regulatory mechanism of G protein signaling is mediated through a family of GTPase accelerating proteins, Regulator of G protein Signaling (RGS) proteins. RGS proteins modulate GPCR signaling by binding to and accelerating GTP hydrolysis on active Gα subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins. This results in attenuation of duration and amplitude of GPCR signaling. The majority of the more than 20 RGS proteins identified to date also possess additional functions not related to their canonical effect on G proteins. In the past 20 years, RGS proteins have emerged as novel drug targets in numerous disease states, such as hypertension, cancer and Parkinson disease among others. RGS proteins are tightly regulated through transcriptional, epigenetic and posttranslational mechanisms, such as degradation through the ubiquitin-proteasomal pathway. Furthermore, expression of RGS proteins is often altered during pathogenesis, causing dysregulation in GPCR signaling, that can cause or worsen the disease. Thus, the work in our lab is focused on two central questions; 1) To understand the mechanisms by which levels and function of RGS proteins are regulated and; 2) How the knowledge of these mechanisms can be applied in drug discovery.

Our current projects cover RGS2, RGS10, and the three members of the RZ family (RGS17, 19 and 20). RGS2 is rapidly degraded through the ubiquitin-proteasomal pathway. In this essential system, a protein is targeted for degradation through the enzymatic coupling of a chain of ubiquitin molecules that serves as a recognition signal for the proteasome. Over 600 E3 ligases serve as substrate-recognizing components with great selectivity towards different proteins. Through high-throughput siRNA screening we identified a novel multiprotein E3 ligase responsible for RGS2 protein degradation. Current work aims to dissect the precise molecular mechanisms and interactions within this complex to determine what drives RGS2 protein degradation, using biochemical, structural and cell based systems. Another angle of this project is to develop a high-throughput assay to screen for novel inhibitors of RGS2 targeting by this E3 ligase. We are also studying the role of posttranslational modulation of RGS2 in diseases such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, neurodegeneration and uveal melanoma. RGS10 is heavily regulated through epigenetic mechanisms and has been implicated as a key regulator of neuroinflammation. This project aims to develop a high-throughput screening assay to be used for small molecule and siRNA screening for novel modulators of RGS10 in microglia.

Through this work we aim to not only identify molecules that could be developed into novel therapeutics, but also unveil mechanism that regulate RGS10 expression in microglia. For the RZ family of RGS proteins we are investigating the role that palmitoylation plays in subcellular localization, protein stability and activity of these proteins. This is an early stage project, but it could have important implications in how these proteins regulate breast cancer progression.

Selected Publications:

McNabb HM, Gonzalez S, Muli CM, Sjögren B. (2020) N-terminal Targeting of Regulator of G Protein Signaling 2 for F-box Only Protein 44-mediated Proteasomal Degradation. Mol. Pharmacol. 98(6):677-685.

McNabb HM, Zhang Q, Sjögren B. (2020) Emerging roles for RGS2 in (patho)physiology. Mol Pharmacol. 98(6):751-760.

Phan HT, Sjögren B, Neubig RR. (2017) Human Missense Mutations in Regulator of G Protein Signaling 2 Affect the Protein Function Through Multiple Mechanisms. Mol. Pharmacol. 92(4):451-458.

Sjögren B (2017) The evolution of RGS proteins as drug targets – 20 years in the making. IUPHAR Review 21. Br. J. Pharmacol. 174(6):427-437.

Sjögren B, Parra S, Atkins KB, Karaj B, Neubig RR. (2016) Digoxin-Mediated Upregulation of RGS2 Protein Protects against Cardiac Injury. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 357:1–9.

Sjögren B, Swaney S, Neubig RR. (2015) FBXO44-mediated degradation of RGS2 protein uniquely depends on a Cullin 4B/DDB1 complex. PloS One. 10(5): e0123581.

Raveh A, Schultz PJ, Aschermann L, Carpenter C, Tamayo-Castillo G, Cao S, Clardy J, Neubig RR, Sherman DH, Sjögren B. (2014) Identification of PKC activation as a novel mechanism for RGS2 protein upregulation through phenotypic screening of natural product extracts. Mol. Pharmacol. 86(4):406-16.

Storaska AJ, Mei JP, Wu M, Li M, Wade SM, Blazer LL, Sjögren B, Hopkins CR, Lindsley CW, Lin Z, Babcock JJ, McManus OB, Neubig RR. (2013) Reversible inhibitors of regulators of G-protein signaling identified in a high-throughput cell-based calcium signaling assay. Cell Signal. 25(12):2848-55.

Sjögren B, Parra S, Heath LJ, Atkins KB, Xie Z-J, Neubig RR. (2012) Cardiotonic steroids stabilize RGS2 protein levels. Mol Pharmacol 82(3):500-9.

Sjögren B, Neubig RR. (2010) Thinking outside of the "RGS box": new approaches to therapeutic targeting of regulators of G protein signaling. Mol Pharmacol. 78(4):550-7.

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