Prof Ray Dixon

Project Leader
Molecular Microbiology

Ray investigates the process of nitrogen fixation in free-living bacteria, how this is regulated and how to use this knowledge to enhance agricultural productivity.

He is investigating the minimal set of bacterial nitrogen fixation genes that can be expressed in a plant to produce active nitrogenase.

Ray is also interested in understanding the genetic regulation of nitrogen fixation in plant associated bacteria, in order to stimulate release of fixed nitrogen that can be assimilated by cereal crops.

  • Genetic regulation of nitrogen fixation
  • Understanding the signalling pathways which regulate nitrogen fixation genes
  • Enhancing agricultural productivity through nitrogen fixation

The ability of bacteria to respond to a multitude of environmental signals and integrate these signals to trigger adaptive responses provides a successful strategy for survival in rapidly changing environments. Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which these signals are perceived and integrated is the main aim of our work.

The group’s major emphasis is on signal transduction cascades that regulate nitrogen fixation genes in response to oxygen, metal availability and fixed nitrogen status. These signalling mechanisms ensure efficient survival in nitrogen-depleted environments, but also can be potentially manipulated to increase fixed nitrogen supplied to crops.

The group are also using synthetic biology approaches to define the minimal set of genetic determinants for nitrogen fixation that can be expressed in a eukaryotic host to produce active nitrogenase, with the long-term aim of engineering nitrogen fixation in cereals.


Tel: 01603 450747

Managing the microbes – the key to solving the global nitrogen crisis

read more

John Innes Centre leading partner in new UK - Brazil Virtual Joint Centre

read more

Progress towards sustainable, biological nitrogen fixation

read more

Selected Publications

Yang J., Xie X., Yang M., Dixon R., Wang Y. P. (2017)

Modular electron-transport chains from eukaryotic organelles function to support nitrogenase activity

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 pE2460-E2465

Publisher’s version: 10.1073/pnas.1620058114

Wang J., Yan D., Dixon R., Wang Y. P. (2016)

Deciphering the Principles of Bacterial Nitrogen Dietary Preferences: a Strategy for Nutrient Containment

mBio 7 pe00792-16

Publisher’s version: 10.1128/mBio.00792-16

Huergo L. F., Dixon R. (2015)

The Emergence of 2-Oxoglutarate as a Master Regulator Metabolite.

Microbiology & Molecular Biology Reviews 79 p419-35

Publisher’s version: 10.1128/MMBR.00038-15

Yang J., Xie X., Wang X., Dixon R., Wang Y. P. (2014)

Reconstruction and minimal gene requirements for the alternative iron-only nitrogenase in Escherichia coli.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 pE3718-3725

Publisher’s version: 10.1073/pnas.1411185111

Wang L., Zhang L., Liu Z., Zhao D., Liu X., Zhang B., Xie J., Hong Y., Li P., Chen S., Dixon R., Li J. (2013)

A minimal nitrogen fixation gene cluster from Paenibacillus sp. WLY78 enables expression of active nitrogenase in Escherichia coli.

PLoS Genetics 9 pe1003865

Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003865

Recent Publications

Mus F., Tseng A., Dixon R., Peters J. W. (2017)

Diazotrophic Growth Allows Azotobacter vinelandii To Overcome the Deleterious Effects of a glnE Deletion.

Applied and environmental microbiology 83 pe00808-17

Publisher’s version: 10.1128/AEM.00808-17

Dixon R., Hartmann A. (2017)

Novel insights into ecological distribution and plant growth promotion by nitrogen-fixing endophytes - how specialised are they?

Environmental microbiology reports 9 p179-181

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/1758-2229.12529

Robson R., Smith B., Dixon R. (2016)

John Raymond Postgate FIBiol. 24 June 1922 - 22 October 2014

Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 62 p483-504

Publisher’s version: 10.1098/rsbm.2016.0006

Fox A. R., Soto G., Valverde C., Russo D., Lagares Jr A., Zorreguieta A., Alleva K., Pascuan C., Frare R., Mercado-Blanco J., Dixon R., Ayub N. D. (2016)

Major cereal crops benefit from biological nitrogen fixation when inoculated with the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Pseudomonas protegens Pf-5 X940

Environmental Microbiology 18 p3522-3534

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/1462-2920.13376

Batista M. B., Wassem R., de Oliveira Pedrosa F., de Souza E. M., Dixon R., Monteiro R. A. (2015)

Enhanced oxygen consumption in Herbaspirillum seropedicae fnr mutants leads to increased NifA mediated transcriptional activation.

BMC Microbiology 15 p95

Publisher’s version: 10.1186/s12866-015-0432-6

View All

Ray Dixon

  • Dr Corinne Appia-Ayme Postdoctoral Scientist


For media enquiries, please contact the JIC communications team 01603 450962,

JIC Cookie Policy. We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. You can find out more about the cookies by clicking here.

Accept cookies