The Dixelius lab: Filamentous plant pathogens, their plant-host interactions and plant defense

Last changed: 14 December 2021

Our research has an emphasis on generating a mechanistic understanding on molecular level on plant defense to various filamentous plant pathogens. Sweden is facing increasing disease problems due to changes in the climate not least shorter cold periods. Old and new challenges are investigated.

Diseases on Brassica oil crops have for long been in the center of the work but we have expanded into potato late blight and Rhizoctonia on sugar beet. Sweden has a long tradition to support developing countries, spending 1 % of BNP on such activities channeled via the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). In Sida programs we have particularly been active in capacity building in East Africa with emphasis on genomics and molecular tools.


Find a list of our recent publications here

Ongoing projects

Brassica pathogens and Arabidopsis studies

Studies on the Arabidopsis – Leptosphaeria maculans interaction has a long history in our research group. We have identified resistance loci and genes (RLM1, RLM2, RLM3) as well as downstream signaling processes involving different plant hormones. Present activities are on elucidating additional function on particularly of LMS1.  The work on Verticillium longisporum has an emphasis on, effectors and finding new plant defense genes.

Soilborne pathogens have been studied in the interdisciplinary program “BioSoM” (Biological Soil Mapping). The group continues to work on Plasmodiophora brassicae, the club root pathogen involving comparative genomics, metagenomics and plant host interactions.

Sugar beet - Rhizoctonia solani 

Rhizoctonia solani is a soil-borne fungal pathogen with a wide host range. We are studying the strain that attacks sugar beet causing major sugar beet losses worldwide. Here we are covering questions on the fungal genome and interactions with different sugar beet genotypes in order to find important defense genes useful for plant breeding.

Potato – Phytophthora infestans

We are work on P. infestans aiming at understanding gene silencing mechanisms including deciphering roles of small non-coding RNAs. Communication processes between P. infestans and its host plants on cellular level are particularly of interest. The long-term goal is to transfer knowledge gained on P. infestans and its host interactions to new resistance potato breeding strategies.

Cereal crops and their fungal pathogens in East Africa 

The engagement of capacity building and collaboration with East African Universities started with the onset of the Bio-Earn program 1999 funded by Sida. We are presently studying the finger millet blast disease incited by the Magnaporthe fungus, a pathogen that is attacking many important cereal crops in the region.

New initiatives

Red clover is the Swedish key legume fodder crop. We aim at improving its tolerance to soil-borne pathogens and thereby prolong its persistence in Swedish leys.


Agencies that are/have supported the work

EU, , Formas, SSF, SLU, , SIDA, VR, Carl Tryggers Foundation, Nilsson-Ehle Foundation, the Swedish Farmers Foundation for Agricultural Research, the Swedish Seed and Oil Seed, Growers Association, Wallenberg Foundation, Helge Ax:son Johnsons Foundation, and the Foundation in Memory of Oscar and Lili Lamm.


Professor Christina Dixelius

Group leader at the Dixelius lab
Department of Plant Biology, SLU

Telephone: (+46) 18673234