An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
Rama Natarajan

Rama Natarajan

National Business Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research
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 vasculopathy. Her studies in this area provided clinical evidence that epigenetic changes persist over time and contribute to vasculopathy in diabetes despite optimum glucose control. Her team identified specific chromatin histone post-translational modifications and DNA methylation that drive persistent inflammatory and fibrotic genes in diabetes. These remarkable findings, now generally referred to as ‘metabolic memory,’ provided new appreciation of the connections between glycemic history, epigenetics, and diabetic vasculopathy. She has published over 200 papers and received numerous awards. Her studies have been continually funded for over 25 years by the National Institutes of Health.
Currently, Dr. Natarajan is professor and chair, Department of Diabetes Complications & Metabolism within the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute and Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope. She also holds the National Business Products Industry 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

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. 

Das S*, Reddy MA*, Senapati P, Stapleton K, Lanting L, Wang M, Ganguly R, Amaram V, Devaraj S, Schones DE, Natarajan R (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.
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