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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. none.

Selected Publications

McCann, M., & Carpita, N. (in press). Biomass recalcitrance: A multi-scale, multi-factor and conversion-specific property. Journal of Experimental Botany.

Carpita, N., & McCann, M. (in press). Characterizing visible and invisible cell-wall mutant phenotypes. Journal of Experimental Botany.

Penning, B., Sykes, R., Babcock, N., Dugard, C., Held, M., Klimek, J., . . . Carpita, N. (2014). Genetic determinants for enzymatic digestion of lignocellulosic biomass are independent of those for lignin abundance in a maize recombinant inbred population. Plant Physiology, 165, 1475-1487.

Carpita, N. (2014). No carbon left behind: A new paradigm in the conversion of biomass to biofuels and high-value products. International Bioenery Symposium. Retrieved from

Carpita, N. (2014). Redesigning the plant cell wall for conversion of biomass to biofuels and high-value products. Plenary Lecture, Frontiers in Biorefining. Retrieved from

Baldwin, L., Domon, J., Klimek, J., Sellier, H., Gillet, G., Pelloux, J., . . . Rayon, C. (2014). Structural alteration of cell wall pectins accompanies pea development in response to cold. Phytochemistry, 104, 37-47.

McCann, M., Penning, B., Dugard, C., & Carpita, N. (in press). Tailoring plant cell wall composition and architecture for conversion to liquid hydrocarbon biofuels. In Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels.

Vinueza, N., Kim, E., Gallardo, V., Mosier, N., Abu-Omar, M., Carpita, N., & Kenttamaa, H. (in press). Tandem mass spectrometric characterization of conversion of xylose to furfural. Biomass Bioenergy.

Olek, A., Rayon, C., Makowski, L., Ciesielski, P., Badger, J., Paul, L., . . . Carpita, N. (2014). The structure of the catalytic domain of a plant cellulose synthase and its assembly into dimers. Plant Cell, 26, 2996-3009.

Rayon, C., Olek, A., & Carpita, N. (2014). Towards redesigning cellulose biosynthesis for improved bioenergy feedstocks. In Plants and BioEnergy, Advances Plant Biology (4, 183-193). New York: Springer.