An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
Rama Natarajan

Rama Natarajan, Ph.D.

National Business Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research
Clinical Expertise
Research Focus
  • Diabetes and its complications
Professor and Chair, Department of Diabetes Complications & Metabolism; Member, Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer Program, Comprehensive Cancer Center
Email: [email protected]

Research Teams

  • Diabetes Complications and Metabolism
Rama Natarajan, Ph.D. is a leader in the field of diabetes-related vascular complications and a pioneer in diabetes epigenetics. She was among the first to discover the role of epigenetic changes and noncoding RNAs in promoting diabetic micro- and macrovascular complications. Her team identified specific chromatin histone post-translational modifications and DNA methylations that drive inflammatory and fibrotic genes in diabetes. Her studies in this area provided clinical evidence that persistent epigenetic changes are associated with the phenomenon of “metabolic memory” in which periods of prior high blood sugar levels predispose diabetic patients to long-term vascular complications, despite subsequent optimum glucose control. These findings have led to a new appreciation of the connections between glycemic history, epigenetics, metabolic memory and diabetic vasculopathy. Dr. Natarajan also evaluates translational approaches targeting epigenetic changes and non-coding RNAs for the treatment of diabetic complications. She has published over 200 papers and has received numerous awards. Her studies have been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 25 years. 

Dr. Natarajan is a faculty member of the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences and very active in teaching, mentoring and training graduate students, fellows and faculty. Currently, Dr. Natarajan is Professor and Chair, Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism within the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Institute and Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope National Medical Center. She also holds the National Business Products Industry Endowed Professorship in Diabetes Research.

Throughout her career, Dr. Natarajan, as a member and Chair of the Women’s Leadership Committee, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Council of the American Heart Association, continues to promote the advancement of junior researchers and women in vascular sciences.  


City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1500 East Duarte Road

Duarte, CA 91010

Zhuo Chen, Feng Miao, Barbara H Braffett, John M Lachin, Lingxiao Zhang, Xiwei Wu, Melanie Carless, Xuejun Arthur Li, Joshua D Tompkins, John Kaddis, Arthur D Riggs, Andrew D Paterson, DCCT/EDIC Study Group, Rama Natarajan. (2020). DNA methylation mediates HbA1c-associated complication development in Type1 diabetes. (Nature Metabolism. 2020
Stapleton K, Das S, Reddy MA, Leung A, Amaram V, Lanting L, Chen Z, Zhang L, Rengasamy P, Deiuliis JA, and Natarajan R. (2020). A novel long non-coding RNA, MIST, regulates macrophage activation during obesity (In Press) Atheroscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2020 Feb 13:ATVBAHA119313359. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.313359. [Epub ahead of print].
Jia Y*, Reddy MA*, Das S, Oh HJ, Abdollahi M, Yuan H, Zhang E, Lanting L, Wang M, Natarajan R. Dysregulation of histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation in transforming growth factor-β1-induced gene expression in mesangial cells and diabetic kidney. J Biol Chem. 2019 Aug 23;294(34):12695-12707. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.007575. PMID: 31266808; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6709639.
Das S, Reddy MA, Natarajan R. Role of epigenetic mechanisms regulated by enhancers and lncRNAs in cardiovascular disease. Current opinion in cardiology. Forthcoming; NIHMSID: NIHMS1572089.
Roshandel D, Chen Z, Canty AJ, Bull SB, Natarajan R, Paterson AD. DNA methylation age calculators reveal association with diabetic neuropathy in type 1 diabetes. Clin Epigenetics. 2020 Apr 5;12(1):52. doi: 10.1186/s13148-020-00840-6. PubMed PMID: 32248841; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7132894.
Stapleton K, Das S, Reddy MA, Leung A, Amaram V, Lanting L, Chen Z, Zhang L, Palanivel R, Deiuliis JA, Natarajan R. Novel Long Noncoding RNA, Macrophage Inflammation-Suppressing Transcript (MIST), Regulates Macrophage Activation During Obesity. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2020 Apr;40(4):914-928. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.313359. Epub 2020 Feb 13. PubMed PMID: 32078363; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7098442.
Jia Y, Reddy MA, Das S, Oh HJ, Abdollahi M, Yuan H, Zhang E, Lanting L, Wang M, Natarajan R. Dysregulation of histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation in transforming growth factor-β1-induced gene expression in mesangial cells and diabetic kidney. J Biol Chem. 2019 Aug 23;294(34):12695-12707. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.007575. Epub 2019 Jul 2. PubMed PMID: 31266808; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6709639.
Dhawan S, Natarajan R. Epigenetics and Type 2 Diabetes Risk. Curr Diab Rep. 2019 Jun 27;19(8):47. doi: 10.1007/s11892-019-1168-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 31250127; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6777943.
Kato M, Natarajan R. Epigenetics and epigenomics in diabetic kidney disease and metabolic memory. Nat Rev Nephrol. 2019 Jun;15(6):327-345. doi: 10.1038/s41581-019-0135-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 30894700; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6889804.
Leung A, Amaram V, Natarajan R. Linking diabetic vascular complications with LncRNAs. Vascul Pharmacol. 2019 Mar;114:139-144. doi: 10.1016/j.vph.2018.01.007. Epub 2018 Feb 3. Review. PubMed PMID: 29398367; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6070440.
Xu L, Natarajan R, Chen Z. Epigenetic Risk Profile of Diabetic Kidney Disease in High-Risk Populations. Curr Diab Rep. 2019 Feb 7;19(3):9. doi: 10.1007/s11892-019-1129-2. Review. PubMed PMID: 30730019; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6483106.
Das S, Zhang E, Senapati P, Amaram V, Reddy MA, Stapleton K, Leung A, Lanting L, Wang M, Chen Z, Kato M, Oh HJ, Guo Q, Zhang X, Zhang B, Zhang H, Zhao Q, Wang W, Wu Y, Natarajan R. A Novel Angiotensin II-Induced Long Noncoding RNA Giver Regulates Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Proliferation in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells. Circ Res. 2018 Dec 7;123(12):1298-1312. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313207. PubMed PMID: 30566058; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6309807.
Leung A, Trac C, Kato H, Costello KR, Chen Z, Natarajan R, Schones DE. LTRs activated by Epstein-Barr virus-induced transformation of B cells alter the transcriptome. Genome Res. 2018 Dec;28(12):1791-1798. doi: 10.1101/gr.233585.117. Epub 2018 Oct 31. PubMed PMID: 30381291; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6280761.
Kato M. Target RNA-directed microRNA degradation; which controls which?. Noncoding RNA Investig. 2018 Nov;2. doi: 10.21037/ncri.2018.11.01. Epub 2018 Nov 14. PubMed PMID: 30957073; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6450655.
Leung A, Natarajan R. Long Noncoding RNAs in Diabetes and Diabetic Complications. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2018 Oct 10;29(11):1064-1073. doi: 10.1089/ars.2017.7315. Epub 2017 Oct 30. Review. PubMed PMID: 28934861; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6121179.
Rosen ED, Kaestner KH, Natarajan R, Patti ME, Sallari R, Sander M, Susztak K. Epigenetics and Epigenomics: Implications for Diabetes and Obesity. Diabetes. 2018 Oct;67(10):1923-1931. doi: 10.2337/db18-0537. PubMed PMID: 30237160; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6463748.
Das S, Reddy MA, Senapati P, Stapleton K, Lanting L, Wang M, Amaram V, Ganguly R, Zhang L, Devaraj S, Schones DE, Natarajan R. Diabetes Mellitus-Induced Long Noncoding RNA Dnm3os Regulates Macrophage Functions and Inflammation via Nuclear Mechanisms. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2018 Aug;38(8):1806-1820. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.117.310663. PubMed PMID: 29930005; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6202204.
Deshpande S, Abdollahi M, Wang M, Lanting L, Kato M, Natarajan R. Reduced Autophagy by a microRNA-mediated Signaling Cascade in Diabetes-induced Renal Glomerular Hypertrophy. Sci Rep. 2018 May 3;8(1):6954. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25295-x. PubMed PMID: 29725042; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5934412.
Gangwar RS, Rajagopalan S, Natarajan R, Deiuliis JA. Noncoding RNAs in Cardiovascular Disease: Pathological Relevance and Emerging Role as Biomarkers and Therapeutics. Am J Hypertens. 2018 Jan 12;31(2):150-165. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpx197. Review. PubMed PMID: 29186297; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5861558.
Das S, Senapati P, Chen Z, Reddy MA, Ganguly R, Lanting L, Mandi V, Bansal A, Leung A, Zhang S, Jia Y, Wu X, Schones DE, Natarajan R. Regulation of angiotensin II actions by enhancers and super-enhancers in vascular smooth muscle cells. Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 13;8(1):1467. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01629-7. PubMed PMID: 29133788; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5684340.
Oh HJ, Kato M, Deshpande S, Zhang E, Das S, Lanting L, Wang M, Natarajan R. Inhibition of the processing of miR-25 by HIPK2-Phosphorylated-MeCP2 induces NOX4 in early diabetic nephropathy. Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 12;6:38789. doi: 10.1038/srep38789. PubMed PMID: 27941951; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5150532.
Kato M, Wang M, Chen Z, Bhatt K, Oh HJ, Lanting L, Deshpande S, Jia Y, Lai JY, O'Connor CL, Wu Y, Hodgin JB, Nelson RG, Bitzer M, Natarajan R. An endoplasmic reticulum stress-regulated lncRNA hosting a microRNA megacluster induces early features of diabetic nephropathy. Nat Commun. 2016 Sep 30;7:12864. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12864. PubMed PMID: 27686049; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5553130.
Grassi MA, Rao VR, Chen S, Cao D, Gao X, Cleary PA, Huang RS, Paterson AD, Natarajan R, Rehman J, Kern TS. Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines as a Tool to Study Inter-Individual Differences in the Response to Glucose. PLoS One. 2016;11(8):e0160504. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160504. eCollection 2016. PubMed PMID: 27509144; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4979894.
Recent Publications: To view a full list of all publications, please click here to view.
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