Photo of Royce  Mohan, Ph.D.

Royce Mohan, Ph.D.

Professor, Neuroscience
Associate Director, Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Academic Office Location:
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-3401
Phone: 860-679-2020
Fax: 860-679-8766

Neuroscience Graduate Program

Ph.D.The Ohio State UniversityBiochemistry
M.Sc.Indian Institute of TechnologyChemistry
B.Sc.Loyola CollegeChemistry

Post-Graduate Training
PostdoctoralHarvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s HospitalRheumatology and Immunology
PostdoctoralTufts University School MedicineOphthalmology
PostdoctoralNew England Medical CenterOphthalmology

Name of Award/HonorAwarding Organization
John A. and Florence Mattern Solomon Chair in Vision Biology and Eye DiseasesUniversity of Connecticut Health Center
President's Award for Excellence in ResearchFight for Sight Foundation, Inc.
Travel Fellowship to Paris, France International Society for Eye Research
National Eye Institute Fellowship, Woods Hole, MANational Eye Institute, NIH
Monsanto Biotechnology Fellowship, Research in Chemical and Life SciencesMonsanto, St. Louis, Missouri
Winner of 16th Annual ICSABER Graduate Research Forum in Basic ScienceOhio State University
MCM Scholarship for Chemistry, 1984-86Indian Institute of Technology
Merit Certificate, Chemistry Quiz CompetitionRoyal Society of Chemists, London
B.S. Scholarship for Chemistry, India, 1981-84Army Educational Fund

The Mohan lab interfaces chemical biology with pharmacological approaches to discover and validate new targets for ocular diseases that are undermined by pathological angiogenesis, fibrosis and gliosis. One such target being investigated is vimentin, a type III intermediate filament (IF) that we identified as an intracellular binding target of the natural product inhibitor withaferin A. This pivotal discovery illuminated two key features of importance for both basic research and drug discovery. First, the withaferin A ligand-binding site in vimentin shows remarkable conservation across different species spanning over 400 million years of evolution. This has afforded us the convenience to exploit at will different mammalian species for cell biological studies and pharmacological testing in animal models. Second, the withaferin A ligand-binding site is found conserved also in the other type III IF family members, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), desmin and peripherin. This revelation has afforded us an unprecedented insight into the druggability of these type III IFs that are expressed in the vascular, central nervous system and cardio-muscular system. Consequently, the validation of GFAP and vimentin as binding targets of withaferin A in retinal gliosis and vimentin and desmin in corneal fibrosis underscores the pharmacological utility of withaferin A for treatment of ocular trauma. Our findings thus not only place the type III IFs on the list of newly identified druggable proteins, but illuminate also important chemical and structural features of this target class that is pivotal for rational drug design.

Our lab is actively pursuing target validation in mouse models of ocular diseases and traumatic injury to develop a more comprehensive understanding of withaferin A’s mode of action in vivo. On a complementary side, we are also interested in developing chemical probes that will allow us to image target expression in vivo and as well new analogs of withaferin A with improved drug-like characteristics. These applications are being investigated through collaborations with medicinal chemists to help further advance withaferin-based analogs for therapeutic development in the areas of tissue repair, corneal fibrosis and retinal gliosis.

Accepting Lab Rotation Students: Fall '19, Spring '20

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • The Use of Withaferin A to Study Intermediate Filaments.
    Mohan, Royce; Bargagna-Mohan, Paola Methods in enzymology 2016 Jan;187-218
  • Herbal Medicinal Products as Anti-Angiogenic Agents
    Mohan, R. Evaluation of Herbal Medicinal Products-Perspectives of Quality, Safety and Efficacy 2009 Jan;174-182
  • Regulation of Matrix Metalloproteinase Gene Expression
    Fini, M.E., Cook, J.R., Mohan, R., & Brinckerhoff, C.E. Matrix Metalloproteinase 1998 Jan;300-356
  • Regulation of Matrix Metalloproteinase Gene Expression
    Fini, M.E., Cook, J.R., MOHAN, R., & Brinckerhoff, C.E. Matrix Metalloproteinases 1998 Jan;300-356
  • Sclera
    Panjwani, N. & Mohan, R. Cornea 1997 Jan;29-40
  • Mutual Triggering of Gene Expression in Plant-Fungus Interactions
    Kolattukudy, P.E., Podila, G.K., Sherf, B.A., Bajar, M.A. & MOHAN, R. Advances in Molecular Genetics of Plant-Microbe Interactions 1990 Jan;242-249