Brian Dixon

Brian Dixon
Professor, Canada Research Chair in Fish and Environmental Immunology
Location: B2 247A
Phone: 519-888-4567 x32665


Research in Professor Dixon's laboratory is directed towards characterizing fish immune systems at the molecular level.

His research provides detailed knowledge of the molecules used as signals and receptors in the mammalian immune system has allowed more effective control of disease through vaccines and drugs. However, only a handful of immunologically important molecules have been isolated from fish, despite the growing need for vaccines and drugs to control diseases in aquaculture. A deeper knowledge of the molecules involved in teleost immune systems also provides insight into the evolution and function of equivalent molecules in mammalian immune systems.

To date Professor Dixon's research program has focused on the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) receptors. These molecules are present on the surface of every cell in the body of vertebrates and are the key molecules which decide what belongs to the body and what is a pathogen.

Professor Dixon was the first researcher to isolate an expressed MHC gene from fish, and produced the antibodies that allowed the first demonstration that they are present on the surface of fish cells. MHC receptors are highly polymophic and Professor Dixon has performed experiments to measure the evolution of MHC polymorphism in a fish population. Dr. Dixon has also shown that fish immune systems shut down in cold temperatures making them more susceptible to disease.

Research Interests

  • Environment and Immunology
  • Comparative Immunology
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Diagnostic Assays
  • Viruses in Aquatic Ecosystems
  • Managing the Risk of Human Activity in Aquatic Ecosystem
  • Legacies of Agriculture Pollutants
  • Fish Immunology


  • 1993 Ph.D. Biology, Dalhousie University, Canada
  • 1988 M.Sc. Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Guelph, Canada
  • 1985 B.Sc. Honours Biology, Dalhousie University, Canada


  • 2015 Canadian Society of Zoologists Robert Arnold Wardle Medal
  • 2014 Virtual Researchers on Call Participation Award
  • 2014 Outstanding Performance Award
  • 2013 NSERC Synergy Award
  • 2011 Canada Research Chair in Fish and Environmental Immunology
  • 2010 Jack Carlson Teaching Award
  • 2005, 2009, 2014 Outstanding Performance Award
  • 2003 Premier's Research Excellence Award


  • NSERC Committee 1502
  • Ex Vivo Science Advisory Board
  • Vitameter Science Advisory Board
  • Canada Research Chair College of Reviewers
  • Treasurer, Pan-American Marine Biotechnology Association
  • Board member, International Society for Fish and Shellfish Immunology
  • Journal Editorships: Developmental and Comparative Immunology, Editorial Board; Animal and Plant Immunology, Elsevier Reference Collection, Section Editor

Affiliations and Volunteer Work

  • The Water Institute
  • Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology
  • Chair, University of Waterloo Animal Care Committee
  • University Appointments Review Committee


  • BIOL 341 - Fundamentals of Immunology
    • Taught in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
  • BIOL 441 - Advances in Immunology
    • Taught in 2022, 2024
  • BIOL 636 - Advanced Immunology
    • Taught in 2019, 2021, 2023, 2024

* Only courses taught in the past 5 years are displayed.

Selected/Recent Publications

  • Gilbertson, M.K., Haffner, G.D., Drouillard, K. Albert, A., and Dixon, B. Immunosuppression in the Northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) induced by pesticide exposure. Envir. Tox. Chem 22(1): 101-110.
  • Dixon, B., Shum, B.P.S. , Adams, E.J., Magor, K.E., Hedrick, R.P., Muir, D.G. and Parham, P. CK-1, a putative chemokine of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Immunological Reviews. 166: 345-352.
  • Stet R.J.M., Kruiswijk, C.P. and Dixon, B. Major histocompatibility lineages and immune gene function in teleostean fishes: The road less taken. Invited Review. Critical Reviews in Immunology. 23(5&6): 441-471.
  • Nath, S. Fujiki, K., Kales S.C. and Dixon B. Major Histocompatibility class II genes in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) exhibit temperature dependent downregulation Immunogenetics, 58 443-453.
  • Sever, L., Vo, NTK, Lumsden, J. Bols NC and Dixon B Induction of rainbow trout MH class I and accessory proteins by viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus. Molecular Immunology 59: 154–162.
  • Please see Professor Brian Dixon's profile on ResearchGate for a current list of his peer-reviewed articles:

In The News