Rama Natarajan headshot

Rama Natarajan, Ph.D

  • National Business Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research, Professor and Chair, Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism
  • Member, Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer Program, Comprehensive Cancer Center

Rama Natarajan, Ph.D

Research Focus :
  • Diabetes and its complications
  • 2014 to present - Professor and Chair, Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism, Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope
  • 2011 to present - National Business Products Industry Endowed Professor in Diabetes Research, Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism, Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope
  • 2011 to 2014 - Associate Chair, Department of Diabetes, Director, Division of Molecular Diabetes Research, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Duarte, CA
  • 2002 to present - Professor, Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Duarte, CA
  • 1996 to 2001 - Associate Professor, Dept of Diabetes, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Duarte, CA
  • 1990 to 1996 - Assistant Research Scientist, Dept. of Diabetes, City of Hope, Duarte, CA
  • 1987 to 1990 - Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine, University of Southern California Medical School, Los Angeles
  • Diabetes Complications & Metabolism


  • 1977-1979, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Science and Technology Fellowship, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
  • 1979-1980, Scientific Research Council Post Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Applied Chemistry, Salford University, England, U.K.
  • 1980-1986, NIH Post Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Medicine, University of Southern California Medical School, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1973 to 1977 - Indian Institute of Science, India, Ph.D. in biochemistry


  • 1980-1986, NIH Post Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Medicine, University of Southern California Medical School, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1979-1980, Scientific Research Council Post Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Applied Chemistry, Salford University, England, U.K.
  • 1977-1979, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Science and Technology Fellowship, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

The major focus of our research is to determine the molecular mechanisms underlying the accelerated development of inflammation, vascular and renal complications observed under diabetic conditions. We are examining the role of epigenetics and non-coding RNAs in the pathology of these diabetic complications, and also how persistence of epigenetic changes can create a “metabolic memory” that results in long term malfunction of genes and sustained complications even after subjects with diabetes bring their blood sugar under control. We use state-of-the art approaches in cell culture, animal and clinical models to examine these mechanisms leading to enhanced vascular and renal cell growth, and monocyte activation due to altered expression of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and lipids under diabetic conditions.

We have uncovered key signaling pathways, and gene regulation mechanisms that integrate and amplify the effects of diabetogenic stimuli in target cells. Additionally, we have demonstrated the role of specific chromatin histone post-translational modifications and DNA methylation in the epigenetic regulation of inflammatory and fibrotic genes under diabetic conditions and in the phenomenon of “metabolic memory”. We use genomic profiling approaches to map histone modifications, DNA methylation, binding of chromatin factors at diabetes-regulated genes, chromatin accessibility and transcriptome changes under diabetic conditions with techniques such as Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-linked to Next generation sequencing (ChIP-seq), RNA-sequencing, ATAC-sequencing and others.

Another active area is the examination of non-coding RNAs like microRNAs and and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) that regulate the expression of pathological and protective genes under diabetic conditions. We discovered novel roles for certain microRNAs and lncRNAs and their downstream targets in augmenting renal fibrosis, inflammation and vascular dysfunction in diabetes. We are using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to generate microRNA and Lrc RNA deficient mice to study their functions, and also the therapeutic efficacy of novel inhibitors on non-coding RNAs for diabetic kidney disease and inflammation in mouse models. Together, these approaches could lead to new therapeutic modalities for the debilitating complications of diabetes.


Rama Natarajan, Ph.D., F.A.H.A., F.A.S.N.
National Office Products Endowed Professor in Diabetes Research
Mitsuo Kato, Ph.D.
Associate Research Professor
Amy Leung, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Feng Miao, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor

Marpadga A. Reddy, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Anita Bansal, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
626-256-4673, ext. 31208
Nancy (Zhuo) Chen, M.D., M.S.
Staff Scientist
626-256-4673, ext. 65058
Maryam Abdollahi
Postdoctoral Fellow
Sadhan Das, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow

Rituparna Ganguly, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow

Ragadeepti Tunduguru
Postdoctural Fellow
Vishnu Samarasimhasubhashchandra
Graduate Student
626-256-4673, ext. 80392

Ken Stapleton
Graduate Student
626-256-4673, ext. 84690

Linda Lanting, B.S.
Research Associate

Mei Wang, M.S.
Research Associate

Lingxiao Zhang, M.S.
Research Associate
Partial List of Publications (selected from over 190):
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. Nature Communications. 2017 Nov 13;8(1):1467. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01629-7. PubMed PMID: 29133788; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5684340.
Kato M, Wang M, Chen Z, Bhatt K, Oh HJ, Lanting L, Deshpande S, Jia Y, Lai JYC, O’Connor CL, Wu YF, Hodgin JB, Nelson RG, Bitzer M, Natarajan R. (2016) An Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-regulated lncRNA Hosting a MicroRNA Megacluster induces Early features of Diabetic Nephropathy.  Nature Communications 7:12864 doi: 10.1038/ncomms12864, PMID: 27686049. 

Sadhan Das*, Marpadga A Reddy*, Parijat Senapati, Kenneth Stapleton, Linda Lanting, Mei Wang, Rituparna Ganguly, Vishnu Amaram, Sridevi Devaraj, Dustin E Schones, Rama Natarajan (2018). Functional Characterization of Diabetes-Induced long non-coding RNA Dnm3os in Macrophages. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol (In Press).
Chen Z*, Miao F*, Paterson AD, Lachin JM, Zhang L, Riggs AD, Schones DE, Wu X, Wang J, Tompkins JD, Genuth SM, Braffett B, DCCT/EDIC Research group, Natarajan R. Epigenomic Profiling reveals an association between persistence of DNA methylation and metabolic memory in the DCCT/EDIC type 1 diabetes cohort. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 May 24;113(21):E3002-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1603712113. Epub 2016 May 9. PMID: 27162351.
Yuan H, Reddy MA, Deshpande S,  Jia Y, Park JT, Lanting L, Jin W,  Kato M, Xu ZG, Das S and Natarajan R. (2016) . Epigenetic Mechanisms Involved in Pro-fibrotic Gene Regulation by 12/15-Lipoxygenase and its oxidized lipid products in Diabetic Nephropathy . Antioxidants and Redox Signaling  2016; 24(7):361-75. PMCID:PMC4779982.
Reddy MA, Das S, Chen Z,  Jin W, Wang M, Lanting L and Natarajan R. (2016) Regulation of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Dysfunction Under under Diabetic Conditions By microRNAmiR-504.  Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol.2016 May;36(5):864-73. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.115.306770. Epub 2016 Mar 3. PMID:26941017
Leung A, Trac C, Du J, Natarajan R, and Schones DE. (2016) Persistent chromatin modifications induced by high fat diet.  J. Biol. Chem.,  2016 May 13;291(20):10446-55. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M115.711028. Epub 2016 Mar 22. PMID: 27006400

Miao F*, Chen Z*, Genuth S*, Zhang L, Wu X, Paterson AD, Lachin J, Li Sierra M, Cleary P, Riggs AD, Harlan DM, Lorenzi G, Kolterman O, Wanjie Sun, the DCCT/EDIC Research Group, and Natarajan R. (2014) Evaluating the Role of Epigenetic histone modifications in the Metabolic Memory of Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes May;63(5):1748-62. (Commentary by L. Pirola in Same issue)
Reddy MA, Chen Z, Park JT, Wang M, Lanting L, Zhang Q, Bhatt K, Leung A, Wu X, Putta S, Sætrom P and Natarajan R.  (2014) Regulation of Inflammatory Phenotype in Macrophages by a Diabetes-Induced Long Noncoding RNA. Diabetes. Dec;63(12):4249-61
Kato M., and Natarajan R. (2014) Diabetic Nephropathy: Emerging Epigenetic Mechanisms. Nature Reviews Nephrology Sep;10(9):517-30.
Leung A, Parks B, Du J, Trac C, Setten R, Brown K, Lusis AJ, Natarajan R*, Schones DE,* (* Cocorresponding authors). 2014. Open chromatin profiling in mice livers reveals unique chromatin variations induced by high fat diet. J. Biol. Chem. Aug 22;289(34):23557-67. PMID:25006255 [PubMed - in process] PMCID:PMC4156056 [Available on 2015/8/22]
Castro NE, Kato M, Park JT and Natarajan R. (2014), Transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) enhances expression of pro-fibrotic genes through a novel signaling cascade and microRNAs in renal mesangial cells. J. Biol. Chem. Oct 17;289(42):29001-13.
Reddy MA, Putta S, Lanting L, Yuan H, Wang M, Mar D, Flanagin S, Alpers C, Bomsztyk K and Natarajan R. (2013) Losartan Reverses Permissive Epigenetic Changes in Renal Glomeruli of Diabetic db/db Mice. Kidney Intl 2014 Feb;85(2):362-73 PubMed PMID: 24088954.
Kato M, Wang M, Park JT, Deshpande, Mardiros A, Dang V, Zhan Y, Oettgen P, Putta S, Lanting L, Natarajan R. (2013). TGF-β Induces Acetylation of Chromatin and of Ets-1 to Alleviate Repression of miR-192 in Diabetic Nephropathy. Science Signalling Jun 4;6(278):ra43 . (commentary in the same issue by Z. Dong)
Leung A, Trac C, Lanting L, Schones DE, and Natarajan R. (2013) Novel long non-coding RNAs are involved in cellular response to Angiotensin II-signaling. Circulation Res. 113:266-278 (Editorial Commentary by Sandberg K et al, in the same issue.
Miao F, Chen Z, Zhang L, Gao H and Natarajan R. (2013) RNA-Sequencing Analysis of High Glucose Treated Monocytes Reveals Novel Transcriptome Signatures and associated Epigenetic Profiles. Physiol Genomics. Apr 1;45(7):287-99.
Yuan H, Sun G, Lanting L, Wang M, Arce L, Kato M, Kato M and Natarajan R. (2013) Involvement of CBP/P300 and epigenetic histone acetylation in TGF-β1/Smad-pathway mediated gene transcription in mesangial cells Am. J. Physiol (Renal) 304:F601-13.
Park JT, Kato M, Yuan H, Castro N, Lanting L, Wang M and Rama Natarajan. (2013) FOG2 downregulation by TGF-β-induced microRNA-200b/c leads to Akt kinase activation and Glomerular Mesangial Hypertrophy Related to Diabetic Nephropathy. J. Biol. Chem. 2013 Aug 2;288(31):22469-80.
Deshpande SD, Putta S, Wang M, Lai JY, Bitzer M , Nelson RG, Lanting LL, Kato M and Natarajan R. (2013) Transforming Growth Factor-β induced cross talk between p53 and a microRNA in the pathogenesis of Diabetic Nephropathy. DIABETES (In Press). 2013, 62(9):3151-62.
Putta S, Lanting L, Sun G, Lawson G, Kato M and Natarajan R . Inhibiting MicroRNA-192 Ameliorates Renal Fibrosis in Diabetic Nephropathy. (2012). J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. Mar;23(3):458-69.
Miao F, Chen Z, Zhang L, Liu Z, Wu X, Yuan Y-C and Natarajan R. (2012) Profiles of Epigenetic Histone Post-translational Modifications at Type 1 Diabetes Susceptible Genes. 2012. J. Biol. Chem . May 11;287(20):16335-45.
Jin W, Reddy MA, Chen Z, Putta S, Lanting L, Kato M, Park JT, Chandra M, Tangirala R, and Natarajan R. (2012). Small RNA Sequencing Reveals MicroRNAs That Modulate Angiotensin II Effects in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells. J. Biol. Chem. May 4;287(19):15672-83.
Reddy MA, Wen J, Villeneuve L, Wang M, Lanting M, Todorov I, Kato M and Natarajan R. (2012). Pro-Inflammatory Role of microRNA-200 in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells from Diabetic Mice. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol Mar;32(3):721-9. Epub (2012) Jan 12. PMCID: PMC3288534.
Kato M, Arce L, Wang M, Putta S, Lanting L, and Natarajan R. (2011) A microRNA circuit mediates transforming growth factor-β1 autoregulation in renal glomerular mesangial cells. Kidney International 2011 Aug;80(4):358-68 (Comment in the same issue of Kid Intl pg 334-337).
Jin F, Li Y, Ren B, Natarajan R. (2011) PU.1 and C/EBPa synergistically program distinct response to NF-κB activation through establishing monocyte-specific enhancers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci USA. 108 (13):5290-5295. PMID: 21402921; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3069155.

Villeneuve LM, Kato M, Wang M, Reddy MA, Lanting L, Natarajan R. (2010). Enhanced microRNAs-125b levels in vascular smooth muscle cells of diabetic mice leads to increased inflammatory gene expression by targeting the histone methyltransferase Suv39h1. Diabetes. 59(11):2904-15.

Kato M, Wang L, Putta S, Wang M, Yuan H, Sun G, Lanting L, Todorov I, Rossi JJ, and Natarajan R. (2010). Post-transcriptional upregulation of Tsc-22 by Ybx1, a target of miR-216a, mediates TGF-β –induced collagen expression in renal cells. J.Biol.Chem. 285(44):34004-15. Paper of the Week – top 1% of papers.
Sun G, Reddy MA, Yuan H, Lanting L, Kato M, and Natarajan R. (2010). Epigenetic histone methylation modulates fibrotic gene expression in mesangial cells.J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. 21(12):2069-80 (PMCID:3014020).
Kato M, Wang M, Yuan H, Lanting L, Putta P, Gunn A, Nakagawa Y, Shimano H, Rossi JJ and Natarajan R. (2009) TGF-beta activates Akt kinase via a microRNA-dependent amplifying circuit argeting PTEN. Nature Cell Biology 11:881-889. (Faculty of 1000).
Villeneuve LM, Reddy MA, Lanting L, Wang M, Meng L, Natarajan R. (2008) Epigenetic Histone H3 Lysine 9 Methylation in Metabolic Memory and Inflammatory Phenotype of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells in Diabetes. Proc. Natl Acad Sci USA 105(26):9047-52.
Yuan H, Lanting L, Xu ZG, Wang M, Li SL, Swiderski P, Putta S, Jonnalagadda M, , Kato M and Natarajan R. (2008) Effects of Cholesterol tagged short interfering RNAs targeting 12/15-lipoxygenase on parameters of diabetic nephropathy in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes. Am. J. Physiol. (Renal) 295(2):F605-F617.
Li Y, Reddy MA, Miao F, Shanmugam N, Yee JK, Hawkins D, Ren B, Natarajan R. (2008) Role of the histone lysine methyltransferase SET7/9 in the regulation of NF-kB-dependent inflammatory genes. J.Biol. Chem. 283:26771-26781.
Miao F, David D. Smith†, Lingxiao Zhang*, Andrew Min*, Wei Feng*, Natarajan R. (2008) Lymphocytes from Patients with Type 1 diabetes Reveal a Distinct Profile of Chromatin Histone H3 Lysine 9 Dimethylation: An Epigenetic Study in Diabetes. Diabetes. 57:3189-3198. Commentary in the same issue on page 3184 by Litherland SA.
Shanmugam N, Reddy MA, Natarajan R. (2008) Distinct Roles of hnRNPK and microRNA-16 in S100b Induced Cyclooxygenase-2 mRNA Stability in Monocytes. J. Biol.Chem, 283(52):36221-33. Paper of the Week. Comment in the same issue.
Kato M, Zhang J, Wang M, Yuan H, Rossi JJ, Natarajan R. (2007) MicroRNA-192 in diabetic kidney glomeruli and its function in TGF-beta-induced collagen expression via inhibition of E-box repressors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 104:3432-3437.
Miao F, Wu X, Zhang L, Yuan Y-C, Riggs A, Natarajan R. (2007) Genome-wide Analysis of Histone Lysine Methylation variations under diabetic conditions in human monocytes. J. Biol. Chem. 282:13854-13863.
Guha M, Xu ZG, Tung D, Lanting L, Natarajan R. (2007) . Antisense Oligonucleotide to Connective Tissue Growth Factor attenuates Progression of Nephropathy in Mouse Models of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. FASEB J. 21(12):3355-68.
  • American Heart Association: Elected Fellow of the Council for Atherosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB)
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Society of Nephrology (Elected Fellow)
  • International Society of Nephrology
  • North American Vascular Biology Organization (Member of Membership and Awards Committees)
  • The Endocrine Society
  • Western Association of Physicians
  • Editorial Board, Kidney International. 2003-to date
  • Editorial Board, J. Lipid Research, 2005- 2011
  • Editorial Board, DIABETES 2007-2009 , 2012- 2014, and 2017-to-date
  • Editorial Board, Journal of American Society of Nephrology, 2014-to date
  • Editorial Board, American Journal of Physiology, Renal Physiology. 2007-to date
  • Editorial Board, Physiological Genomics, 2011- to date
  • Editorial Board, MicroRNA journal, 2011- to date
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research, 2009-to date
  • Editorial Board, Vascular Pharmacology, 2017- to date
  • Grant Review Committee Memberships and Other National/International Committees: Numerous, Not listed
  • Values in Action Award, City of Hope, 2016
  • 2014 Distinguished Top Reviewer, DIABETES (journal)
  • 2013 Distinguished Top Reviewer, DIABETES (journal)
  • ATVB (Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, Vascular Biol) Journal Award for Top 10 reviewers of 2013
  • 20th Robert R. Kohn Memorial Lecture, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland Ohio, December 2012
  • Kroc Lectureship, Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Endocrinology and Medicine, Oct 2012
  • Lead organizer, Keystone Meeting on Diabetic Complications, Boston, MA, March 2012
  • American Physiological Society Journals Publications 2012 Star Reviewer
  • Mentor of Women Award, ATVB Council of The American Heart Association, Chicago, April 2011
  • National Business Products Industries Endowed Professor, Beckman Res. Inst. of City of Hope, 2011
  • Plenary Speaker, Korean Society of Nephrology 31st Annual Meeting, Seoul, Korea, May 2011
  • City of Hope Leadership Academy, March to June 2011
  • Barry M Brenner Endowed Lecture, American Society of Nephrology, Denver Co, Nov 2010
  • Inducted to the Scientific Research Achievements Gallery of Portraits, City of Hope – Dec. 2011
  • Annual Henry Turner Memorial Lecture and Distinguished Professor. University of Oklahoma, Dept of Internal Medicine, Oklahoma City, February 2010
  • “Scientist of the Year” 2008 - Awarded by Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Oct 2008
  • Special Recognition Award, American Heart Assn, ATVB Council, Nov 2008
  • Mary Jane Kugel Award, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 2006
  • Member of the 2009 NIH NIDDK Strategic Plan Working Group (Diabetes Complications Section)
  • Charter Member, NIH Peer Review,Vascular Cell Molecular Biology (VCMB) Study Section 2004-07
  • Charter Member of NIH Peer Review “Pathology A” Study Section 1999-2003
  • Elected to Women’s Leadership Committee, Arteriosclerosis, Thromb. Vascular Biol Council, American Heart Assn. 2004- 2008
  • Chair of the Women’s Leadership Committee, Arteriosclerosis, Thromb. Vascular Biol Council, American Heart Assn. 2006-2008
  • Member of the American Heart Assn ATVB Council Leadership Committee, 2006-2008.
  • Chair of the Workshop on Epigenetics in Diabetes, JDRF, New York, December 2008
  • Working Group, Post Translational Modification and Epigenetics in Cardiovascular Disease, NIH-NHLBI , Sept 2008
  • “Excellence in Teaching” Award , Graduate School of Biological Sciences, City of Hope, 2003
  • Elected Fellow of Arteriosclerosis, Thromb. Vascular Biol Council, American Heart Assn. 2001-
  • Elected Fellow of the High Blood Pressure Council, American Heart Association, 1995-
  • Elected Fellow of the American Society of Nephrology, 2004-
  • Elected to the Western Association of Physicians, 2004-
  • Henry Christian Award for "Excellence in Research". Presented by the American Federation For Clinical Research. May, 1991.
  • Young Investigator Award -American Heart Association, Jan. 1992.
  • Losartan Research Award presented by DuPont Merck, April 1992.
  • Best Poster Award presented by the American Diabetes Association, Southern California, 1991.
  • Award for the Best Research Paper, The American Diabetes Association, S. California, Dec. 1992.
  • First Independent Research Award. Awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 1993-1997.
  • Cited in Marquis "Who's Who in the West" 1995-1998
  • Cited in “The World Who’s Who of Women” 14th Edition, 1997.
  • Prof. S. Siddappa Gold Medal for securing First Rank in M.S. (Chemistry), Bangalore Univ, 1973.
  • Dr. B.D. Laroia Memorial Gold Medal for First Rank in M.S. (Chemistry), Bangalore Univ., 1973.
  • First Rank Award for graduating University first in B.S., Bangalore University, 1971.
  • National Science Talent Award and Scholarship, N.C.E.R.T., India, 1968-77.
  • High School Valedictorian and Outstanding student. Cluny Convent High School, India.
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