Nicholas C. Carpita

Nicholas C. Carpita Profile Picture

Professor of Plant Biology
Ph.D., Colorado State University, Plant Physiology, 1977

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Plant Biology

Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Current Research Interests:

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)-ß-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, are essential tools in enhancing biomass quality and quantity for biofuel production.

Selected Publications:

1. McCann, M.C., Carpita, N.C. (2015) Biomass recalcitrance: A multi-scale, multi-factor and conversion-specific property. J Exp Bot 66, 4109-4118.

2. McCann, M.C., B.W. Penning, C.K. Dugard, N.C. Carpita (2015) Tailoring plant cell wall composition and architecture for conversion to liquid hydrocarbon biofuels. In: Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels, (M. Himmel, ed.). Elsevier: London, New York, pp. 63-82.

3. Carpita, N.C., Ralph, J., McCann, M.C. (2015) The Cell Wall. In Buchanan, B.B., Gruissem, W., Jones, R.L., eds., Biochemistry & Molecular Biology of Plants, 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 45-110

4. Penning, B.W., Sykes, R.W., Babcock, N.C., Dugard, C.K., Held, M.A., Klimek, J.F., Shreve, J., Fowler, M., Gamblin, D., Ziebell, A., Davis, M., Decker, S.R., Filley, T.R., Mosier, N.S., Springer, N.M., Thimmapuram, J., Weil, C.F., McCann, M.C., Carpita, N.C. (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.

5. Olek AT; Rayon CJ; Makowski L; Kim H-R,; Ciesielski P; Badger J; Paul LN; Ghosh S; Kihara D; Crowley M; Himmel ME; Bolin JT; Carpita NC (2013) Small-angle x-ray scattering reveals the structure of the catalytic domain of a cellulose synthase and its assembly into dimers. Plant Cell 26, 2966-3009. [10.1105/tpc.114.126862].

6. Rayon C; Olek AT; Carpita NC (2013) Towards redesigning cellulose biosynthesis for improved bioenergy feedstocks. In: Plants and Bioenergy (Carpita, N.C, Buckeridge, M.S, McCann, M.C, eds.). Springer, New York. pp. 183-193.

7. Carpita NC (2011) Update on mechanisms of plant cell wall biosynthesis: How plants make cellulose and other (1>4)-ß-D-glycans. Plant Physiol., 155, 171-184. [10.1104/pp.110.163360]

8. Held M, Penning B, Brandt AS, Kessans SA, Yong W, Scofield SR, Carpita NC (2008) Small-interfering RNAs from natural antisense transcripts derived from a cellulose synthase gene modulate cell wall biosynthesis in barley RNAs. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., USA, 105, 20534-20539. [10.1073/pnas.0809408105]

9. Urbanowicz BR, Rayon C, Carpita NC (2004) Topology of the maize mixed linkage (1>3),(1>4)-ß-D-glucan synthase at the Golgi membrane. Plant Physiol. 134, 758–768. [10.1104/pp.103.032011]

10. Vergara CE, Carpita NC (2001) ß-D-Glycan synthases and the CesA gene family: Lessons to be learned from the mixed-linkage (1>3),(1>4)-ß-D-glucan synthase. Plant Mol. Biol., 47, 145-160.

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