Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine

Faculty Profiles

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photo Courtney Sparacino-Watkins, PhD

Research Assistant Professor of Medicine


Phone: 412-383-5853

Office: Starzl Biomedical Science Tower, E1200
200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone: 412-383-5853
Administrative Assistant:
Anna Marie Rompala
Phone: 412-648-2358
Fax: 412-648-5980
Education and Training
Ph.D. in Chemistry, Duquesne University, 2011
B.S. in Chemistry, Slippery Rock University, 2005
T32 Postdoctoral Scholar (PACCM), University of Pittsburgh, 2014
Research Interest
Dr. Sparacino-Watkins’ dissertation work established that the Epsilonproteobacterial periplasmic nitrate reductase (Nap) system has a high affinity for nitrate and unique molecular differences(Sparacino- Watkins, et al. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2014). She utilized several methodologies, such as theoretical protein structure modeling, matrix-based phylogenic analysis, mass spectrometry, recombinant protein purification, and enzyme kinetics. She developed methodology to design and isolate recombinant proteins with organic prosthetic groups, such as molybdopterin of molybdenum-dependent enzymes.
During her post-doctoral training, Dr. Sparacino-Watkins redirected her research to focus on translational and biomedical research. With Dr. Mark Gladwin she utilized her background on bacterial nitrogen metabolism and molybdenum enzymes to study inorganic nitrogen (nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide) metabolism in humans. She identified a new aspect of the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway by establishing that the human mARC-1 and mARC-2 molybdenum enzymes are able to reduce nitrite into NO (Sparacino-Watkins, et. al, JBC, 2014). Additionally, she has been instrumental in developing new experimental methods for quantitation of nitric oxide using the nitric oxide analyzer (NOA), a sensitive analytic method that utilizes gas-phase chemiluminesce and provides unmatched specificity for nitric oxide. She is also active in characterization of other human nitrite reductase enzymes.
Dr. Sparacino-Watkins continues her work on defining the molecular mechanisms behind the therapeutic effects of nitrite on pulmonary arterial hypertension. She is now working on defining the function of mARC enzyme catalyzed nitrite reduction to NO in vivo by studying the effect of mARC2 knockout in mice on the therapeutic effects of nitrite in pulmonary arterial hypertension.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Sparacino- Watkins, C., Tejero, J., Sun, B., Gauthier, M.C., Thomas, J., Venkata, R., Merchant, B.A., Wang, J., Azarov, I., Basu, P., Gladwin, M.T. Nitrite reductase and NO synthase activity of the mitochondrial molybdopterin enzymes mARC1 and mARC2. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2014; 289(15): 10345-58.
Sparacino- Watkins, C., Stolz, J. F., Basu, P. Periplasmic nitrate reductase. Chemical Society Reviews. 2014; 43(2): 416.
Sparacino-Watkins, C. E., Lai, Y.C., Gladwin, M.T. Nitrate- Nitrite- Nitric Oxide Pathway in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Therapeutics. Circulation. 2012; 125(23): 2824.
Tejero, J., Sparacino-Watkins, C., Ragireddy, V., Frizzell, S., Gladwin, M.T. Exploring the mechanisms of the reductase activity of neuroglobin by site-directed mutagenesis of the heme distal pocket. Biochemistry. 2015; 54: 722-733.
Wang, J., Krizowski, S., Fischer-Schrader, K., Niks, D., Tejero, J., Sparacino-Watkins, C., Wang, L., Ragireddy, V., Frizzell, S., Kelley, E.E., Zhang, Y., Basu, P., Hille, R., Schwarz, G., Gladwin, M.T. Sulfite oxidase catalyzes single-electron transfer at molybdenum domain to reduce nitrite to nitric oxide. Antioxidants & redox signaling. 2014.
Chovanec, P., Sparacino-Watkins, C., Zhang, N., Basu, P., Stolz, J.F. Microbial reduction of chromate in the presence of nitrate by three nitrate respiring organisms. Frontiers of microbiology. 2012; 3: 416.
Basu, P, Sparacino, C, Chovanec, P, Stolz, J.F. Investigating protein expression in bacteria grown under different growth conditions. The Integrated Approach to Chemistry Laboratory. 2009; 63-70.
Sponsored Research/Activities
Title: A Dose Escalation Study to Evaluate the Effect of Inhaled Nitrite on Cardiopulmonary Hemodynamics in Subjects with Pulmonary Hypertension
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: Aires Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Grant Number: DRUG
Start Year: 2014
End Year: 2016
Title: Effects of Nitric Oxide in Sickle Cell Blood
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: Wake Forest University/National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute
Grant Number: R37 HL058091
Start Year: 2012
End Year: 2017
Title: Vascular Subphenotypes of Lung Disease - Project 3
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute
Grant Number: P01 HL103455
Start Year: 2011
End Year: 2016
Notable Achievements
Member, American Heart Association (AHA), 2016 -
Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2013 -