James Culver


Culver Group


Email: jculver@umd.edu

Call: (301) 405-2912


  • Ph.D., Plant Pathology, University of California
  • M.S., Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University
  • B.S., Microbiology, Oklahoma State University


The research focus in Dr. James Culver’s laboratory centers on understanding virus biology and its role in disease, and applying these insights into engineering viruses and other biological components for application in nano-based systems and devices. The Culver lab uses numerous scientific approaches and collaborates with scientists in fields ranging from structural biology to microfabrication. The lab’s primary goal is to utilize discoveries in virus biology to develop new approaches for their control and application.

Vascular phloem expression of a virus targeted transcriptional regulator. CC, companion cells; PC, parenchyma cells;
SE, sieve elements.


Virus-Host Interactions

Viruses cause significant reductions in food, fiber and forage throughout the world. Yet despite their importance, we still understand relatively little of the disease processes through which viruses reduce crop productivity. Our biological studies focus on understanding how plant viruses cause disease or induce resistance responses. One area of study is directed at understanding the molecular mechanisms used by viruses to usurp the plant’s vascular tissues and facilitate their movement throughout the plant. The lab is currently characterizing specific plant–virus interactions and cell responses that occur within the vascular tissues of infected plants. These studies utilize a variety of virus - plant systems, including a Tobacco mosaic virus – Arabidopsis system and a Plum Pox Virus - Prunus fruit trees system. 

Another focus area addresses the identification of signaling pathways involved in disease development. These studies examine changes in the host plant genome and proteome to identify host genes and pathways altered during the infection process. These insights serve to link disrupted genes or pathways to specific disease responses and virus-host interactions and functions. Our long-term goal is to utilize information from these studies to develop crop plants that do not support virus spread and/or disease development.

Virus-Based Nanotechnology

Advances in nanotechnology offer significant improvements in a range of applications including, lightweight materials with greater strength, increased energy efficiency for electronic devices, and better sensors for a range of environmental and manufacturing uses. Advances in nanotechnology require the development of systems for the design, modeling, and synthesis of nanoscale materials. Many biological molecules function on this scale and possess unique properties that impart the ability to assume defined shapes and assemblies, as well as interact with specific chemical or biological targets. The Culver lab used simple RNA plant viruses as templates for the self-assembly and patterning of novel nanomaterials and is developing methods to produce arrays of functionalized viruses for use in sensors, energy harvesting, and drug delivery. The main goal of the virus-based nanotechnology project is to integrate renewable biological components into the manufacture of nanoscale materials and devices.

Translatome analysis of plum poxvirus infected Prunus domestica.
Directed assembly of TMV nanorod ends through carboxylate modifications (red).


Rootstock-induced scion resistance against tobacco mosaic virus is associated with the induction of defence-related transcripts and graft-transmissible mRNAs.
Delivery of CRISPR-Cas12a Ribonucleoprotein Complex for Genome Editing in an Embryogenic Citrus Cell Line.
Highly stable, antiviral, antibacterial cotton textiles via molecular engineering.
Highly Efficient Genome Editing in Plant Protoplasts by Ribonucleoprotein Delivery of CRISPR-Cas12a Nucleases.
Reprogramming Virus Coat Protein Carboxylate Interactions for the Patterned Assembly of Hierarchical Nanorods.
Dynamic changes impact the plum pox virus population structure during leaf and bud development.
Transglutaminase-mediated assembly of multi-enzyme pathway onto TMV brush surfaces for synthesis of bacterial autoinducer-2.
Viral Hacks of the Plant Vasculature: The Role of Phloem Alterations in Systemic Virus Infection.
Translatome Profiling of Plum Pox Virus-Infected Leaves in European Plum Reveals Temporal and Spatial Coordination of Defense Responses in Phloem Tissues.
Identification of phloem-associated translatome alterations during leaf development in Prunus domestica L.
Tobacco Mosaic Virus as a Versatile Platform for Molecular Assembly and Device Fabrication.
Fabrication of Tobacco Mosaic Virus-Like Nanorods for Peptide Display.
Localized Three-Dimensional Functionalization of Bionanoreceptors on High-Density Micropillar Arrays via Electrowetting.
Tobacco mosaic virus infection disproportionately impacts phloem associated translatomes in Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana benthamiana.
Biofabrication of Tobacco mosaic virus-nanoscaffolded supercapacitors via temporal capillary microfluidics.
Capillary Microfluidics-Assembled Virus-like Particle Bionanoreceptor Interfaces for Label-Free Biosensing.
Tobacco mosaic virus-directed reprogramming of auxin/indole acetic acid protein transcriptional responses enhances virus phloem loading.
Real-time monitoring of macromolecular biosensing probe self-assembly and on-chip ELISA using impedimetric microsensors.
The impact of phytohormones on virus infection and disease.
Plant virus directed fabrication of nanoscale materials and devices.