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Sridhar Rao, MD, PhD

Sridhar Rao, MD, PhD

Associate Investigator

Education and training

Postdoctoral Research Training
Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA

Clinical Training
Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA

Contact Us

Sridhar Rao, MD, PhD

Associate Investigator
Email (414) 937-3841 Fax: (414) 937-6284

  • Research Interests

    Stem Cell Biology / Hematopoiesis

    The primary focus of our lab is to understand how changes in gene expression influence differentiation of stem cells. Alterations in this process are a key step in the development of leukemia. In particular, our laboratory focuses on how non-coding DNA elements act as “molecular switches” to causes changes in gene expression. We use different models to understand how non-coding DNA elements regulate which genes are on or off in a particular cell type, but one of our primary models is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). We focus on AML because it has a poor long-term survival even with high dose chemotherapy, illustrating the need for more effective, less toxic therapies. In AML, approximately 15% of patients have mutations within genes encoding the cohesin complex, which plays a critical role in allowing non-coding DNA elements to regulate gene expression. In addition to AML, we also use mouse derived stem cells to ask fundamental questions about how non-coding DNA elements regulate gene expression. Most of our studies rely upon next-generation sequencing-based genome wide approaches, in addition to genomic editing to understand how non-coding DNA elements regulate stem cell differentiation.

  • Grant Support
    • NCI: Cohesin Mutations in Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (PI) (09/19/2017 - 07/31/2022)
    • NIDDK: GATA4 in Development of a Normal Squamocolumnar Junction and Barrett's Esophagus (Co-I) (07/01/2017 - 06/30/2019)
  • Lab

    Kirthi Pulakanti
    Computational Biologist

    Alison Meyer
    Research Scientist

    Cary Stelloh
    Research Technologist

    Lauren Pommert
    Clinical Fellow 

    Katelyn Heimbruch
    Graduate Student

    Puja Agarwal
    Graduate Student

  • Publications
    • Rao S (2012). Embryonic Stem Cells: a perfect tool for studying mammalian transcriptional enhancers. J Stem Cell Res Ther, S10-007, PMCID3844140
    • Blinka S, MH Reimer, K Pulakanti, L Pinello, GC Yuan, and S Rao (2017). Identification of Transcribed Enhancers by Genome-Wide Chromatin Immunoprecipitation Sequencing. Methods in Molecular Biology, Enhancer RNAs. Series Editor: John Walker; Book Editor: Ulf Andersson Orom. 1468:91-109 PMID27662872
    • Fisher JB, M McNulty, MJ Burke, JD Crispino, and S Rao (2017). Cohesin Mutations in Myeloid Malignancies. Trends in Cancer, 3:282-293 PMCID in process.
    • Blinka S and S Rao (2017). Nanog Expression in Embryonic Stem Cells-an Ideal Model System to Dissect Enhancer Function. BioEssays. Manuscript accepted
    • Pulakanti K, L Pienello, C Stelloh, S Blinka, J Allred, S Milanovich, S Kiblawi, J Peterson, A Wang, GC Yuan*, and S Rao* (2013). Enhancer transcribed RNAs arise from hypomethylated, Tet-occupied genomic regions. Epigenetics 8:1303–1320. PMCID:3933491 *co-senior authors
    • Boehler KR, S Bhattacharya, EM Kropp, S Chuppa, DR Riordon, D Bausch-Fluck, PW Burridge, JC Wu, RP Wersto, GC Chan, S Rao, B Wollscheid, and RL Gundry (2014). A human pluripotent stem cell surface N-glycoproteome resource reveals new markers, extracellular epitopes, and drug targets. Stem Cell Reports\ 3:185-203. PMCID:4110789
    • Milanovich S, J Peterson, J Allred, C Stelloh, K Rajasekaran, J Fisher, SA Duncan, S Malarkannan, and S Rao (2015). Sall4 overexpression blocks murine hematopoiesis in a dose-dependent manner. Exp Hematology 43:53-64. PMCID:4268405
    • Sohni A, M Bartoccetti, R Khoueiry, L Spans, J Vande Velde, L De Troyer, K Pulakanti, F Claessens, S Rao, and KP Koh (2015). Dynamic switching of active promoter and enhancer domains regulates Tet1 and Tet2 expression during cell state transitions between pluripotency and differentiation. Mol Cell Bio 35:1026-1042. PMCID:4333094
    • Zhang N, H Zhi, BR Curtis, S Rao, C Jobaliya, M Poncz, DL French, and PJ Newman (2016). CRISPR/Cas9-mediated conversion of human platelet alloantigen allotypes. Blood, 127:675-80. PMCID:4751021
    • Stelloh C, MH Reimer, K Pulakanti, S Blinka, J Peterson, L Pinello, S Jia, S Roumiantsev, MJ Hessner, S Milanovich, GC Yuan, and S Rao (2016). The cohesin-associated protein Wapal is required for proper polycomb-mediated gene silencing. Epigenetics and Chromatin 9:14. PMCID:4832553
    • Blinka S, MH Reimer, K Pulakanti, and S Rao (2016). Super-Enhancers at the Nanog Locus Differentially Regulate Neighboring Pluripotency-Associated Genes. Cell Reports 17:19-28. PMCID:5111363
    • Swartz KL, SN Woods, T Murthy, O Ramirez, G Qin, MM Pillai, S Rao, and AC Minella (2017) E2F-2 promotes nuclear condensation and enucleation of terminally differentiated erythroblasts. Mol Cell Biol 37:e00274-16. PMCID:5192079
    • Fisher J, J Peterson, M Reimer, C Stelloh, K Pulakanti, ZJ Gerbec, AM Abel, J Strouse-Miksanek, C Strouse, M McNulty, S Malarkannan, JD Crispino, S Milanovich, and S Rao (2017). The cohesin subunit Rad21 is a negative regulator of hematopoietic self-renewal through epigenetic repression of HoxA7 and HoxA9. Leukemia 31:712-719. PMID:27554164
    • Thompson CA, K Wojta, K Pulakanti, S Rao, P Dawson, and MA Battle M.A (2017). GATA4 is sufficient to establish jejunal versus ileal identity in the small intestine. Cell Mol Gastroenterology Hepatology. 3:422-446 PMCID5404030
    • Fisher JB, K Pulakanti, S Rao, and SA Duncan (2017). GATA6 is essential for endoderm formation from human pluripotent cells. Biology Open. Accepted.
  • Other



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