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Nicholas C Carpita

Botany and Plant Pathology 

  • Professor
Lilly Hall Room 1-464

Our principal objectives are to characterize the structural and functional architecture of the plant cell wall, to understand the biochemical mechanisms of biosynthesis of its polysaccharides, and to identify the genes that encode the molecular machinery that synthesizes these components. Specific objectives include the identification and characterization of cell wall mutants in Arabidopsis and maize by Fourier transform infrared spectra. Potential mutants identified by this novel spectroscopic method are characterized genetically to determine heritability. A systematic protocol was devised to use biochemical, cytological, and spectroscopic methods to characterize the function of cell-wall biogenesis-related genes in Arabidopsis and maize identified through the mutant screen. We are classifying mutants by artificial neural networks as a database to classify genes of unknown function. We also develop methods to investigate the biosynthesis and topology of cellulose and the mixed-linkage (1→3),(1→4)-β-D-glucan in maize. We use proteomic and immunological approaches to identify the catalytic machinery and its associated polypeptides. We have also begun a program to characterize the regulation by microRNAs and naturally occurring small interfering RNAs of cellulose synthases and suites of similarly regulated genes in networks that form primary and secondary walls. Finally, we desire to apply our knowledge of cell wall biology to solve practical problems in agriculture. Understanding wall composition and architecture and the regulation of the synthesis of its components is an essential tools in enhancing biomass quality and quantity for biofuel production.

Awards & Honors

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

(2012) Fellow of AAAS. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

(2012) Immediate Past President. American Society of Plant Biologists.

(2010) President of American Society of Plant Biologist. American Society of Plant Biologist.

(2009) Seeds of Success Award, Millionaire's Club. College of Agriculture.

(1991) Agricultural Research Award. Purdue University.

(1987) Gamma Sigma Delta. Purdue University.

(1984) Sigma Xi. Purdue University.


Carpita, N. C. (2012). none. U.S. Patent No. none. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selected Publications

Carpita, N. C., McCann, M. C., & Ralph, J. (in press). The Cell Wall. In Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, 2nd edition. New York, NY: Wiley Press.

Mertz, R. A., Olek, A. T., & Carpita, N. C. (2012). Alterations in cell-wall glycosyl structure of Arabidopsis murus mutants.. Carbohydrate Polymers, 89, 331-339.

Dweikat, I., Weil, C. F., Moose, S. P., Kochian, L., Mosier, N. S., Ileleji, K. E., . . . Carpita, N. C. (2012). Envisioning the transition to a next-generation biofuels industry in the Midwest. BioFPR, 6, 376-386.

Carpita, N. C. (2012). Progress in the biological synthesis of the plant cell wall: new ideas for improving biomass for bioenergy. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 23, 330-339.

Benatti, M. R., Penning, B. W., Carpita, N. C., & McCann, M. C. (2012). We’re good to grow: dynamic integration of cell wall architecture with the machinery of growth. Frontiers in Plant Science, 3, Art. No. 187.

Carpita, N. C., Ralph, J., & McCann, M. (in press). The Cell Wall. In Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, 2nd Edition.

Carpita, N. C. (2011). Update on mechanisms of plant cell wall biosynthesis: How plants make cellulose and other (1→4)-ß-D-glycans. Plant Physiology, 155, 171-184. Retrieved from

Carpita, N. C., & McCann, M. C. (2010). The maize mixed-linkage (1→3), (1→4)-ß-D-glucan polysaccharide is synthesized at the Golgi membrane. Plant Physiol, 153, 1362-1371.

Penning, B., Hunter, C. T., Tayengwa, R., Eveland, E., Dugard, C. K., Olek, A., . . . Carpita, N. C. (2009). Genetic resources for maize cell wall biology. Plant Physiology, 151, 1703-1728. Retrieved from

Held, M., Penning, B., Brandt, A. S., Kessans, S. A., Yong, W., Scofield, S. R., & Carpita, N. C. (2008). Naturally occurring antisense transcripts of a cellulose synthase gene in barley initiates negative control of cell wall biosynthesis involving small interfering RNAs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 105, 20534-20539. Retrieved from