Richard A. Dixon

BDI Director, Distinguished Research Professor
Biological Sciences

Dixon lab

Richard A. Dixon is Director of the BioDiscovery Institute and Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas, Denton. He was previously Distinguished Professor and Samuel Roberts Noble Research Chair, Senior Vice President and Founding Director of the Plant Biology Division at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he worked from 1988-2013. He received his Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees in Biochemistry and Botany from the University of Oxford, UK, and postdoctoral training in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK.  He was awarded the Doctor of Science degree for his research achievements by the University of Oxford in 2004. His research interests center on the biochemistry, molecular biology and metabolic engineering of plant natural product pathways and their implications for agriculture and human health, and the engineering of lignocellulosic biomass for the improvement of forage and bioenergy feedstocks.  He has published over 460 papers and chapters on these and related topics in international journals. Professor Dixon is a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences (Plant and Soil Sciences Section, elected in 2007), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (elected in 2003), a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (elected in December 2014), a member of the Editorial Boards of five international journals, and has been named by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the 10 most cited authors in the plant and animal sciences.


Research Interests: 
  • Metabolic engineering of plant natural products and lignin for improvement of biomass utilization, forage quality, and human health.
  • Genomics approaches to understanding plant natural product biosynthesis.
  • National Institutes of Health (Office of Natural Supplements, NCCAM). Botanicals Center on Dietary Polyphenols in the Preservation and Promotion of Cognitive Wellness and Psychological Resiliency. (Co-PI). $700,918. 9/1/15-31/8/20.
  • NSF-IOS. Biosynthesis, Regulation and Engineering of C-Lignin. (PI). $833,772. 4/1/2015-3/31/2018.
  • Grasslanz Technology Ltd. Transforming row crops to express condensed tannins. (PI). $570,000. 12/1/2014-11/30/2018.
  • Forage Genetics International. Molecular approaches to improved protein utilization in alfalfa. (PI). $750,000. 6/1/2013-5/31/2018.
  • US-DOE (Bioenergy Sciences Center). Bioenergy Sciences Center (Switchgrass Research). (PI). $1,715,246. 6/1/2013-9/31/2017.
  • NSF-IOS. Metabolomics: Advancing the scientific promise of metabolomics to better understand plant specialized metabolism. (Co-PI). $710,549. 12/1/2011 – 5/31/2017. 

Full List: Google Scholar


Li, M., Pu, Y., Yoo, C., Gjersing, E., Decker, S., Doeppke, C., Shollengerger, T., Tschaplinski, T., Engle, N., Sykes, S., Davis, M., Baxter, H., Mazarei, M., Fu, C., Dixon, R.A., Wang, Z-Y., Stewart, N. and Ragauskas, A. (2017). Study of traits and recalcitrance reduction of field-grown COMT down-regulated switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). Biotechnology for Biofuels 10:12, DOI:10.1186/s13068-016-0695-7.

Yang, H., Barros-Rios, J., Kourteva, G., Rao, X., Chen, F., Shen, H., Liu, C., Podstolski, A., Belanger, F., Havkin-Frenkel, D. and Dixon, R.A. (2017). A re-evaluation of the final step of vanillin biosynthesis in the orchid Vanilla planifolia. Phytochemistry 139, 33-46

Lu, N., Roldan, M. and Dixon, R.A.  (2017). Characterization of two TT2-type MYB transcription factors regulating proanthocyanidin biosynthesis in tetraploid cotton, Gossypium hirsutum. Planta doi:10.1007/s00425-017-2682-z

Dumitrache, A., Natzke, J., Rodriguez, M., Yee, K.L.,Thompson, O.A., Poovaiah, C.R., Shen, H., Mazarei, M., Baxter, H.L., Engle, N.L., Fu, C., Wang, Z-Y., Biswal, A.K., Li, G., Tang, Y., Tschaplinki, T., Stewart, C.N., Dixon, R.A., Nelson, R.S.,  Mohnen, D., Mielenz, J., Brown, S.D. and Davison, B.H. (2017). Transgenic switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) with reduced recalcitrance to bioconversion: a two-year comparative analysis of five different types of transgenes in the field. Plant Biotechnology Journal (epub), doi: 10.1111/pbi.12666.


Liu, C., Wang, X., Shulaev, V. and Dixon, R.A. (2016) A role for leucoanthocyanidin reductase in the extension of proanthocyanidins. Nature Plants doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.182.

Ha, C.M., Escamilla-Trevino, L., Serrani Yarce, J.C., Kim, H., Ralph, J., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). An essential role of caffeoyl shikimate esterase in monolignol biosynthesis in Medicago truncatula. Plant Journal doi: 10.1111/tpj.13177 (cover article)

Rao, X. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). The differences between NAD-ME and NADP-ME subtypes of C4 photosynthesis: more than decarboxylating enzymes. Frontiers in Plant Science 13 October 2016 |

DeBruyn, J.M., Bevard, D.A., Essington, M.E., McKnight, J.Y., Baxter, H.L., Mazarei, M., Mann, D.G.J., Dixon, R.A., Chen, F., Zhou, C., Wang, Z-Y., Stewart Jr., C.N. (2016) Field grown transgenic switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) with altered lignin does not affect soil chemistry, microbiology and carbon storage potential. GCB Bioenergy doi:10.1111/gcbb.12407

Barros, J., Serrani-Yarce, J.C., Chen, F., Baxter, D., Venables, B.J. and Dixon, R.A. (2016).  Role of bifunctional ammonia-lyase in grass cell wall biosynthesis. Nature Plants May 9 2016 Article 16050, DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2016.50.

Nar, M., Rizvi, H.R., Dixon, R.A., Chen, F., Kovalcik, A. and D'Souza, N. (2016). Superior plant-based carbon fibers from electronspun poly-(caffeyl alcohol). Carbon 103, 372-383.

Ha, C.M., Escamilla-Trevino, L., Serrani Yarce, J.C., Kim, H., Ralph, J., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). An essential role of caffeoyl shikimate esterase in monolignol biosynthesis in Medicago truncatula. Plant Journal doi: 10.1111/tpj.13177 (cover article)

Nar, M., Rizvi, H.R., Dixon, R.A., Chen, F., Kovalcik, A. and D'Souza, N. (2016). Superior plant-based carbon fibers from electronspun poly-(caffeyl alcohol). Carbon 103, 372-383.


Jun, J.H., Liu, C., Xiao, X. and Dixon, R.A. (2015). The transcriptional repressor Mt MYB2 regulates both spatial and temporal patterns of proanthocyandin and anthocyanin pigmentation in Medicago truncatula. Plant Cell doi: http:/ / dx. doi. org/ 10. 1105/ tpc. 15.

Ragauskas, A.J., Beckham, G.T., Biddy, M.J., Chandra, R., Chen, F., Davis, M.F., Davison, B.H., Dixon, R.A., Gilna, P., Keller, M., Langan, P., Naskar, A.K., Saddler, J.N., Tschaplinski, T.J., Tuskan, G.A., Wyman, C.E. (2014). Lignin valorization: improving lignin processing in the biorefinery. Science, 344, 1246843 (2014). DOI: 10.1126/science.1246843

Tobimatsu, Y., Chen, F., Jin Nakashima, J., Jackson, L.A., Dixon, R.A. and Ralph, J. (2013). Coexistence but independent biosynthesis of catechyl and guaiacyl/syringyl lignin polymers in seed coats. Plant Cell 25, 2587-2600.

Zhao, Q., Nakashima, J., Chen, F., Yin, Y., Fu, C., Yun, J., Shao, H., Wang, X., Wang, Z-Y. and Dixon, R.A. (2013). LACCASE is necessary and non-redundant with PEROXIDASE for lignin polymerization during vascular development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Cell 25, 3976-87.

Shen, H., Hisano, H., Hardin, F., Mazarei, M., Fu, C., Escamilla-Treviño, L.L., Xiao, X., Rudis, M.R., Tang, Y., Jackson, L.A., Li, G., Hernandez, T., Nandakumar, R., D., Chen, F., Stewart Jr C.N., Wang, Z.-Y. and Dixon, R.A. (2013). A genomic approach to deciphering the monolignol pathway in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). Plant Cell 25, 4342-4361

Zhao, Q., Tobamitsu, Y., Zhou, R., Pattathil, S., Gallego-Giraldo, L., Fu, C., Shadle, G.L., Jackson, L.A., Hahn, M.G., Kim, H., Ralph, J., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2013). Loss of function of cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase 1 leads to unconventional lignin and temperature-sensitive growth reduction in Medicago truncatula. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 110, 13660-13665.

Chen, F., Tobimatsu, Y., Havkin-Frenkel, D., Dixon, R.A. and Ralph, J. (2012). A polymer of caffeyl alcohol in plant seeds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.109, 1772-1777 (cover article).

  • Disease resistant plants. S.R. Uppalapati, K.S. Mysore, W. Li, L.W. Sumner and R.A. Dixon. US patent number 8,138,392 B2. March 20, 2012.
  • Epicatechin glucosyltransferase. R.A. Dixon, Y. Pang, and G.J. Peel. US patent number 8,420,889 B2; New Zealand patent number 591217.
  • Plants with modified lignin content and methods for production thereof. Q. Zhao, F. Chen and R. A. Dixon. US patent number 8,796,509 B2. Aug 5, 2014. Australian Patent number 61/225,126.
  • Caffeoyl CoA reductase. R. Zhou, R.A. Dixon and F. Chen. US provisional patent application # 13/181,284.
  • Transcription factors for modification of lignin content in plants. H.Wang, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. United States Patent, US 9,045,549 B2.
  • Methods and compositions for regulating production of proanthocyanidins. J. Verdier, J. Zhao, I. Torres-Jerez, S. Ge, K. S. Mysore, R. A. Dixon and M. K. Udvardi. US Patent Number 9,121,031 B2.
  • Compositions and methods for improved plant feedstock. H. Shen, F. Chen and R. A. Dixon. US patent number 8,901,371 B2. Issued December 2, 2014.
  • A novel monolignol that reduces recalcitrance of plant cell walls. B. Davison, R.A. Dixon, N. Engle, J.  Mielenz, Y. Pu, A. Ragauskas, R.F. Standaert, T.J. Tschaplinski. US provisional patent 201102581.
  • Carbon fibers derived from poly-(caffeyl alcohol) (PCFA). R.A. Dixon, N. D’Souza, F. Chen, M. Nar. US Provisional patent.
  • Plant isoflavone and isoflavanone O-methyltransferase genes. B.E. Broeckling, C-J. Liu and R.A.Dixon. US patent number 8,809,627 B2, August 19, 2014.
  • Metabolic Engineering for plant disease resistance. Li, W., Upalapati, S.R., Mysore, K.S., Dixon, R.A. and Sumner, L.W. January 19, 2016, US Patent Number 9,238,821.
  • Methods for regulating extractable proanthocyanidins in plants by affecting leucoanthocyanidin reductase. R.A. Dixon, C.Liu, and V. Shulaev, US provisional application.