The research in the Haigler laboratory centers on cellulose synthesis and cotton fiber development. The fundamental new knowledge arising from our research is applicable to the production of next-generation value-added fiber and biomass crops through genetic engineering or marker-assisted selection.
Cellulose is the world’s most abundant renewable material, and it exists within plant cell walls as crystalline fibrils. These are formed by a membrane-associated protein complex that acts as a nanoscale fibril spinning machine. We are interested in filling in many gaps about how this fascinating and important natural manufacturing process is regulated by the cell. We use genetics and biochemistry to probe the structure and function of the cellulose synthesis complex. Our cellulose research is funded by the “Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation (CLSF)”, an Energy Frontier Research Center led by Dr. Daniel Cosgrove at Pennsylvania State University and funded by the US Department of Energy.
We study cotton fiber, the world’s most important natural textile fiber, to understand the controls of cellular morphogenesis and fiber quality. Each cotton fiber is a single seed epidermal cell that becomes about three centimeters long and thickens by depositing nearly 100% cellulose into its secondary cell wall. We are particularly interested in the cellular, molecular, and biochemical processes that allow high quality fiber to form in the less commonly grown Gossypium barbadense (Pima cotton). Our goal is transfer high quality fiber to the higher yielding G. hirsutum cotton. Our cotton fiber research is funded by Cotton Incorporated (Cary, NC).
Ph.D. Botany University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 1982
B.A. Chemistry Wake Forest University 1978
Area(s) of Expertise
Cellulose Biology and Biotechnology
- Efficient imaging and computer vision detection of two cell shapes in young cotton fibers , APPLICATIONS IN PLANT SCIENCES (2022)
- Leveraging National Germplasm Collections to Determine Significantly Associated Categorical Traits in Crops: Upland and Pima Cotton as a Case Study , FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE (2022)
- Microtubules exert early, partial, and variable control of cotton fiber diameter , PLANTA (2021)
- Phenotypic effects of changes in the FTVTxK region of an Arabidopsis secondary wall cellulose synthase compared with results from analogous mutations in other isoforms , PLANT DIRECT (2021)
- In silico structure prediction of full-length cotton cellulose synthase protein (GhCESA1) and its hierarchical complexes , Cellulose (2020)
- Cultures of Gossypium barbadense cotton ovules offer insights into the microtubule-mediated control of fiber cell expansion , Planta (2019)
- Cellulose synthase "class specific regions' are intrinsically disordered and functionally undifferentiated , JOURNAL OF INTEGRATIVE PLANT BIOLOGY (2018)
- Domain swaps of Arabidopsis secondary wall cellulose synthases to elucidate their class specificity , Plant Direct (2018)
- Structure/function relationships in the rosette cellulose synthesis complex illuminated by an evolutionary perspective , Cellulose (2018)
- Two types of cellulose synthesis complex knit the plant cell wall together , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018)
This project will focus on improving population level breeding tools and understanding genetic information in crop systems, particularly cotton. Bioinformatic analysis will use next-generation sequencing for identification of novel QTL and candidate gene loci and to understand population structures of breeding populations. Validation of novel QTL and candidate gene loci will be initiated through lab activities.
This is a proposal in response to a new FOA including calls for proposed renewal of existing Energy Frontier Research Centers. At NC State, we work in a multi-disciplinary collaboration between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering to understand how cellulose is made by plants. Cellulose within plant cell walls is a major renewable resource with importance to many biomaterials and biomass feedstocks. We will combine advanced microscopy, genetics, and computational modeling to uncover the mechanisms regulating the formation of cellulose microfibrils and their biophysical properties.
The ever-increasing amount of large scale genomic and genetic information from agriculturally important organisms makes it essential to analyze the data insightfully in order to identify genes that confer advantages in the context of agricultural production systems and product quality. This project combines the skills of a research biologist and a bioinformatician in the computational data-mining process and subsequent data analysis and interpretation. The results of the project are expected to benefit cotton, among other crop plant or animal species of importance to the agricultural industry and consumers.
The objective of this project is to utilize whole genome sequencing and other sequencing techniques for cotton in order to perform bioinformatics analysis and identification of Quantitative Trait Loci for traits of interest. The project aims to develop tools for breeders and geneticists that are applicable to agricultural improvement of cotton. Via bioinformatic analysis results, important loci and breeders tools are expected to be additional objectives of this project.
This proposal is a revised renewal proposal for the Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation. Bridging three Colleges at NC State (CALS, COE, CNR) and two disciplines, the research in the renewal phase will be directed toward understanding and manipulating the structure of plant cell walls. The work will include plant genetics, biotechnology, and computational modeling of protein structure. The research has relevance to the improvement of cellulosic renewable biomaterials and biomass feedstocks, such as those used in biofuels production.