Xiaoquan Rao, PhD

Research Information

Research Projects

My research focuses on the health effect of environmental pollutants such as particulate matter. Air pollution has been confirmed as an important risk factor for global mortality and cardiovascular disease. Our current projects aim to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which air pollutants promotes diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The laboratory utilizes the state-of-the-art whole body mouse exposure systems and various molecular, physiologic, immunologic, and imaging approaches to dissect the role of inflammatory regulation and lipid oxidation in air pollution-associated cardiometabolic diseases.


Selected List of Publications

  1. Rao X, Zhong J, Zhang S, Zhang Y, Yu Q, Yang P, Wang MH, Fulton DJ, Shi H, Dong Z, Wang D, Wang CY. Loss of methyl-cpg-binding domain protein 2 enhances endothelial angiogenesis and protects mice against hind-limb ischemic injury. Circulation. 2011;123:2964-2974
  2. Xu X, Rao X, Wang TY, Jiang SY, Ying Z, Liu C, Wang A, Zhong M, Deiuliis JA, Maiseyeu A, Rajagopalan S, Lippmann M, Chen LC, Sun Q. Effect of co-exposure to nickel and particulate matter on insulin resistance and mitochondrial dysfunction in a mouse model. Particle and fibre toxicology. 2012;9:40
  3. Rao X, Zhong J, Xu X, Jordan B, Maurya S, Wang T, Huang W, Aggarwal S, Periasamy M, Rajagopalan S, Mehta K, Sun Q. Exercise protects against diet-induced insulin resistance through downregulation of protein kinase Cβ in mice. PloS One. 2013. 8(12):e81364
  4. Zhong J, Rao X, Deiuliis J, Braunstein Z, Narula V, Hazey J, Mikami D, Needleman B, Satoskar AR, Rajagopalan S. A potential role for dendritic cell/macrophage-expressing dpp4 in obesity-induced visceral inflammation. Diabetes. 2013;62:149-157
  5. Rao X, Zhong J, Sun Q. The heterogenic properties of monocytes/macrophages and neutrophils in inflammatory response in diabetes. Life Sci. 2014;116(2):59-66.
  6. Zhong J, Rao X, Braunstein Z, Taylor A, Narula V, Hazey J, Mikami D, Needleman B, Rutsky J, Sun Q, Deiuliis JA, Satoskar AR, Rajagopalan S. T cell costimulation protects obesity-induced adipose inflammation and insulin resistance. Diabetes. 2014. 63(4):1289-302
  7. Liu C, Xu X, Bai Y, Wang TY, Rao X, Wang A, Sun L, Ying Z, Gushchina L, Maiseyeu A, Morishita M, Sun Q, Harkema JR, Rajagopalan S. Air pollution-mediated susceptibility to inflammation and insulin resistance: Influence of ccr2 pathways in mice. Environ Health Perspect. 2014. 122(1): 17-26
  8. Rao X, Zhong J, Maiseyeu A, Gopalakrishnan B, Villamena FA, Chen LC, Harkema JR, Sun Q, Rajagopalan S. CD36-dependent 7-ketocholesterol accumulation in macrophages mediates progression of atherosclerosis in response to chronic air pollution exposure. Circ Res. 2014;115(9):770-80.
  9. Rao X, Patel P, Puett R, Rajagopalan S. Air pollution as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Toxicol Sci. 2015;143(2):231-41.
  10. Rao X, Montresor-Lopez J, Puett R, Rajagopalan S, Brook RD. Ambient Air Pollution: An Emerging Risk Factor for Diabetes Mellitus. Curr Diab Rep. 2015;15(6):603.
  11. Brook RD, Sun Z, Brook JR, Zhao X, Ruan Y, Yan J, Mukherjee B, Rao X, Duan F, Sun L, Liang R, Lian H, Zhang S, Fang Q, Gu D, Sun Q, Fan Z, Rajagopalan S. Extreme Air Pollution Conditions Adversely Affect Blood Pressure and Insulin Resistance: The Air Pollution and Cardiometabolic Disease Study. Hypertension. 2016;67(1):77-85.
  12. Kankanala SR, Syed R, Gong Q, Ren BX, Rao X*, Zhong J*. Cardiovascular Safety of Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4 inhibitors: Recent Evidence on Heart Failure. Am J Transl Res. 2016; 8(5):2450-2458.
  13. Münzel T, Sørensen M, Gori T, Schmidt FP, Rao X, Brook J, Chen LC, Brook RD, Rajagopalan S. Environmental stressors and cardio-metabolic disease: part I-epidemiologic evidence supporting a role for noise and air pollution and effects of mitigation strategies. Eur Heart J. 2017;38(8):550-556.
  14. Münzel T, Sørensen M, Gori T, Schmidt FP, Rao X, Brook J, Chen LC, Brook RD, Rajagopalan S. Environmental stressors and cardio-metabolic disease: part II-mechanistic insights. Eur Heart J. 2017;38(8):557-564.
  15. Ramanathan M Jr, London NR Jr, Tharakan A, Surya N, Sussan TE, Rao X, Lin SY, Toskala E, Rajagopalan S, Biswal S. Airborne Particulate Matter Induces Non-allergic Eosinophilic Sinonasal Inflammation in Mice. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2017;57(1):59-65.


Doctor of Philosophy
Molecular Biology
Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Bachelor of Science
Clinical Medicine
Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology

Residencies, Internships and Fellowships

The University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore
The Ohio State University

Additional Information

  • 2008-2010: Visiting Student, Medical College of Georgia--Augusta, GA