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 Oncology 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

Degrees

  • 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

Fellowship

  • 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 subject 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, FAIRE-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 studying microRNA knockout mice, and also the therapeutic efficacy of novel inhibitors of 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.

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 diabetes patients 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 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, FAIRE-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 and vascular dysfunction in diabetes. We are studying microRNA knockout mice, and also the therapeutic efficacy of novel inhibitors of 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
626-256-4673, ext. 62289

Marpadga A. Reddy, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
626-256-4673, ext. 63671

Feng Miao, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
626-256-4673, ext. 65575

Mitsuo Kato, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
626-256-4673, ext. 63996

Kirti Bhatt, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
626-256-4673, ext. 65811

Amy Leung, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
626-256-4673, ext. 62278

Sadhan Das, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
626-256-4673

Rituparna Ganguly, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow
626-256-4673

Anita Bansal, PhD
Staff Scientist
626-256-4673
Maryam Abdollahi

HyungJung Oh, M.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
626-256-4673

Ken Stapleton
Graduate Student
626-256-4673

Vishnu Samarasimhasubhashchandra
Graduate Student
626-256-4673

Nancy (Zhuo) Chen, M.D., M.S.
Staff Scientist
626-256-4673, ext. 65058

Linda Lanting, B.S.
Research Associate
626-256-4673, ext. 64692

Mei Wang, M.S.
Research Associate
626-256-4673, ext. 64676

Lingxiao Zhang, M.S.
Research Associate
626-256-4673, ext. 65571

Partial List of Publications (selected from over 190):

Kato M, Wang M,  Chen Z,  Deshpande D,  Bhatt K, Jia Y, Oh HJ,  Lanting L, 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, 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).

MEMBERSHIPS

  • 2016, Ad Hoc Reviewer of several National Institutes of Health Special Emphasis panels
  • 2015, Ad Hoc Reviewer of several National Institutes of Health Special Emphasis panels
  • 2014, Ad Hoc Reviewer of several National Institutes of Health Special Emphasis panels
  • 2012 - 2014, Several Special Emphasis Panels, NIH, NHLBI, NIDDK
  • 2012, AdHoc Member, National Institutes of Health VCMB Study Section
  • 2012, AdHoc Member, National Institutes of Health PBKD Study Section
  • 2011, Adhoc Member, National Institutes of Health AICS Study Section
  • 2009, Member of the NIH NIDDK Strategic Plan Working Group (Diabetes Complications Section)
  • 2004 - 2008, Permanent Member National Institutes of Health VCMB Study Section
  • 2003 - 2012, Permanent Member JDRF Peer Review Committee for Grants and Program Projects
  • 2008, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health NIDDK Special Emphasis Panel Review Committee "O'Brien Kidney Center Grants".
  • 2007, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health AICS Study Section
  • 2007, AdHoc Member JDRF Center Grant External Evaluation Committee
  • 2006, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health PBKD Study Section
  • 2006, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health NIDDK Special Emphasis Panel for Mouse Model Phenotyping Centers Consortium
  • 2005, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health AICS Study Section
  • 2004, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health PBKD Study Section
  • 2003, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health Nephrology/Urology Special Emphasis Panel
  • 2003, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health Program Projects, NIDDK
  • 1999 - 2003, Permanent Member National Institutes of Health Path A Study Section
  • 2001 - 2002, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health NIDDK O'Brien Kidney Center Grants
  • 2001, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health NHLBI SCOR Grant Review Committee
  • 1999, AdHoc Member National Institutes of Health Pathology A Study Section
  • 2011 - Mentor of Women Award, ATVB Council of The American Heart Association
  • 2011 - Inducted to the Scientific Research Achievements Gallery of Portraits, City of Hope – December
  • 2008 - “Scientist of the Year” Awarded by Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope
  • 2008 - American Heart Association, ATVB Council, Special Recognition Award
  • 2006 - Mary Jane Kugel Award, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  • 2003 - “Excellence in Teaching” Award, Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope
  • 1992 - Best Presentation Award presented by the American Diabetes Association, Southern California
  • 1992 - Losartan Research Award presented by DuPont Merck – April
  • 1992 - Young Investigator Award, American Heart Association – January
  • 1991 - Henry Christian Award for "Excellence in Research". Presented by the American Federation For Clinical Research – May
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