Signaling via heterotrimeric G proteins plays a crucial role in modulating the responses of striatal neurons that ultimately shape core behaviors mediated by the basal ganglia circuitry, such as reward valuation, habit formation, and movement coordination. Activation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) by extracellular signals activates heterotrimeric G proteins by promoting the binding of GTP to their α subunits. G proteins exert their effects by influencing the activity of key effector proteins in this region, including ion channels, second messenger enzymes, and protein kinases. Striatal neurons express a staggering number of GPCRs whose activation results in the engagement of downstream signaling pathways and cellular responses with unique profiles but common molecular mechanisms. Studies over the last decade have revealed that the extent and duration of GPCR signaling are controlled by a conserved protein family named regulator of G protein signaling (RGS). RGS proteins accelerate GTP hydrolysis by the α subunits of G proteins, thus promoting deactivation of GPCR signaling. In this review, we discuss the progress made in understanding the roles of RGS proteins in controlling striatal G protein signaling and providing integration and selectivity of signal transmission. We review evidence on the formation of a macromolecular complex between RGS proteins and other components of striatal signaling pathways, their molecular regulatory mechanisms and impacts on GPCR signaling in the striatum obtained from biochemical studies and experiments involving genetic mouse models. Special emphasis is placed on RGS9-2, a member of the RGS family that is highly enriched in the striatum and plays critical roles in drug addiction and motor control.
Keywords: G proteins; GPCR; RGS proteins; striatum.