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Nicholas C Carpita

Botany and Plant Pathology 

  • Professor
Lilly Hall Room 1-464

With more than 200 billion tons per year in the natural environment, cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on Earth. Cellulose microfibrils, the fundamental scaffolding of the plant cell wall, are para-crystalline array of several dozen (1,4)-beta-D-glucan chains synthesized at the plasma membrane surface by large multicomponent complexes of cellulose synthase (CesA) proteins. We discovered that recombinant catalytic domains of CesA are two-domain structures that dimerize using Small-Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) experiments to derive 3-D surface contour structures (Olek et al. 2014). The catalytic domains of plant CesAs contain two unique sequences not found in prokaryotic ancestors ­– a Plant-Conserved Region (P-CR) and Class-Specific Region (CSR) of unknown function. Molecular docking experiments with the catalytic core predicted that the CSRs of CesAs are the dimerization domains. His group crystallized a recombinant Plant-Conserved Region (P-CR) and showed that it is primarily a coiled-coil domain positioned near the entrance to the active site of the catalytic core (Rushton et al. 2017). We have begun studies to define the assembly of CesAs into complexes at the Golgi membrane as part of a broader effort to characterize the dynamics of the Golgi proteome. 

His group has annotated almost 1500 genes that function in wall biogenesis in Arabidopsis and rice, and were the first to establish and characterize the wall biogenesis genes of a model C4 grass, maize. His work today continues expand annotations of the many gene families of cell-wall related genes for grasses and other angiosperms (see A large repertory of biochemical and spectroscopic protocols to define the specific functions of a large number of genes of cell-wall biogenesis has been developed. They also explore the large diversity of maize by genome-wide association studies to identify candidate genes that contribute to traits that enhance biomass deconstruction and catalytic conversion to advanced biofuels and bio-based products.

Awards & Honors

(2016) Founding Member of the Legacy Society. American Society of Plant Biology.

(2014) 2014 Team Award. College of Agriculture.

(2013) Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

(2011) President of American Society of Plant Biologist. American Society of Plant Biologist.

(2015) Seeds of Success Award, Millionaire's Club. College of Agriculture.

(2009) Fellow of American Society of Plant Biologists. American Society of Plant Biologists.

(2016) Chair. Gordon Conference on Plant Cell Walls.

(2005) Secretary. American Society of Plant Biology.

(2002) Elected Member. American Society of Plant Biology.

(1991) Agricultural Research Award. Purdue University.


Carpita, N. C., Hodges, T. K., & Antunes, M. Benzoate inducible promoters and promoter systems are disclosed, and uses thereof. Polynucleotides disclosing Benzoate Response Elements are also disclosed.. U.S. Patent No. 07705203. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selected Publications

Penning, B., Shiga, T., Klimek, J., SanMiguel, P., Shreve, J., Thimmapuram, J., . . . McCann, M. C. (2019). Differential expression of cell wall-related genes during maize stem development. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Okekeogbu, I., Pattathil, S., Fernandez-Nino, S., Penning, B., Lao, J., Heazlewood, J., . . . Carpita, N. C. (in press). Glycome and proteomic components of Golgi membranes are common between two angiosperms with distinct cell wall structures. Plant Cell.

Yang, Zhang, X., Luo, H., Liu, B., Shiga, T. M., Li, X., . . . Meilan, R. (2019). Overcoming cellulose recalcitrance in woody biomass for the lignin‑first biorefinery. Biotechnology for Biofuels, (12), 171. doi:10.1186/s13068-019-1503-y

Saffer, A., Carpita, N. C., & Irish, V. (2017). Rhamnose-containing cell wall polymers are required to suppress helical plant growth independently of microtubule orientation. Current Biology, 27, 2248-2259.

White, W., Moose, S., Weil, C., McCann, M. C., Carpita, N. C., & Below, F. (2011). Tropical maize: Exploiting maize genetic diversity to develop a novel annual crop for lignocellulosic biomass and sugar production. In Routes to Cellulosic Ethanol (1, 167-180). New York: Springer.

Rushton, P. S., Olek, A. T., Makowski, L., Badger, J., Steussy, C. N., Carpita, N. C., & Stauffacher, C. V. (2017). Rice Cellulose SynthaseA8 Plant-Conserved Region Is a Coiled-Coil at the Catalytic Core Entrance. Plant Physiology, 173(1), 482-494. doi:10.1104/pp.16.00739

Dugard, C. K., Mertz, R. A., Rayon, C., Mercadante, D., Hart, C., Benatti, M. R., . . . Carpita, N. C. (2016). The Cell Wall Arabinose-Deficient Arabidopsis thaliana Mutant murus5 Encodes a Defective Allele of REVERSIBLY GLYCOSYLATED POLYPEPTIDE2. Plant Physiology, 171(3), 1905-20. doi:10.1104/pp.15.01922

Vinueza, N. R., Kim, E. S., Gallardo, V. A., Mosier, N. S., Abu-Omar, M. M., Carpita, N. C., & Kenttämaa, H. I. (2015). Tandem mass spectrometric characterization of the conversion of xylose to furfural. Biomass and Bioenergy, 74, 1–5.

McCann, M. C., & Carpita, N. C. (2015). Biomass recalcitrance: A multi-scale, multi-factor and conversion-specific property. The Journal of Experimental Botany, 66, 4109-4118.

Carpita, N. C., & McCann, M. C. (2015). Characterizing visible and invisible cell-wall mutant phenotypes. The Journal of Experimental Botany, 66, 4145-4163.

Botany and Plant Pathology, 915 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-4614

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