sealPurdue News

January 7, 2003

Purdue research among decade's most referenced plant papers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A scientific article by a Purdue University researcher is the decade's second-most cited paper in the plant and animal sciences research field, according to an organization that studies science trends.

Purdue plant biologist Nick Carpita was the lead author of a paper that showed the structure of two distinct types of plant cell walls. The paper, "Structural Models of Primary Cell Walls in Flowering Plants – Consistency of Molecular Structure with the Physical Properties of the Walls during Growth," was published in the January 1993 issue of the Plant Journal. Since then, it has been cited in articles by other researchers more than 800 times as one basis for their work, according to ISI Essential Science Indicators.

Carpita said the article has been cited even more the past couple of years than it was initially because its findings are still valid and it serves as a foundation for research in many scientific disciplines for both molecular studies and practical applications. The paper describes and shows pictures of the molecular architectural changes in cell walls during growth, both in flowering plants and in grasses and related species, such as palms and gingers.

"Originally I wanted to develop a plant cell wall model, but the more I studied the structures, the more interested I became in the biochemistry and biophysics of their formation and development," Carpita said. "This paper was the first one to show the coherent assembly of plant cell wall polysaccharides and to make the distinction between the two different types of plant cell walls that are evidenced by most flowering plants, on the one hand, and grasses on the other."

The main focus of Carpita's molecular research investigates how plants make their cell walls, but this work has many practical applications, he said. Plant cell walls comprise many items used every day, so information gleaned from the basic science could foster improved shelf life of fruits and vegetables, increased dietary fiber in grains, improved nutritional content of livestock feed, and longer-lasting wood products and development of more and better biofuels.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $5.9 million grant to Carpita and his research team to continue these studies. The team includes scientists from Purdue, the University of Florida, University of Connecticut, University of Wisconsin and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Department of Energy contract facility based in Golden, Colo.

Carpita, who earned his bachelor's degree at Purdue and his doctorate at Colorado State University, has been a Purdue faculty member since 1979.

The ISI Essential Science Indicators compiles science indicators and trends using data on cited papers, authors, organizations, journals and nations. The organization helps researchers in corporate, academic and government sectors keep track of research in their respective fields and to make contact with other scientists studying the same areas.

Writer: Susan A. Steeves, (765) 496-7481,

Source: Nicholas Carpita, (765) 494-4653,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,;

Related Web sites:
Purdue University cell Wall genomics
Purdue Department of Botany and Plant Pathology

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