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

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

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Progress towards sustainable, biological nitrogen fixation

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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

Yang J., Xie X., Xiang N., Tian Z. X., Dixon R., Wang Y. P. (2018)

Polyprotein strategy for stoichiometric assembly of nitrogen fixation components for synthetic biology.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115 pE8509-E8517

Publisher’s version: 10.1073/pnas.1804992115

Batista M. B., Teixeira C. S., Sfeir M. Z. T., Alves L. P. S., Valdameri G., Pedrosa F. O., Sassaki G. L., Steffens M. B. R., de Souza E. M., Dixon R., Müller-Santos M. (2018)

PHB Biosynthesis Counteracts Redox Stress in Herbaspirillum seropedicae.

Frontiers in microbiology 9 p472

Publisher’s version: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00472

Batista M. B., Chandra G., Monteiro R. A., de Souza E. M., Dixon R. (2018)

Hierarchical interactions between Fnr orthologs allows fine-tuning of transcription in response to oxygen in Herbaspirillum seropedicae

Nucleic Acids Research 46 (8) p39533966

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/nar/gky142

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

View All

Ray Dixon

  • Dr Corinne Appia-Ayme Postdoctoral Scientist


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