Dr Khaoula Belhaj-Fragnière

Postdoctoral Scientist
Sophien Kamoun Group

Plants are in constant battle with microbial organisms such as bacteria, oomycetes, fungi and nematodes. My research seeks to understand how pathogens establish diseases on their host and in turn how plants resist to invading pathogens.

During my PhD in the laboratory of Felix Mauch, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, I unravelled the important role of a chloroplastic protein RPH1 in disease resistance towards two oomycete pathogens P. brassicae and P. infestans. My work, has given a translational aspect of the model system Arabidopsis- P. brassicae into crop improvement.

In 2012, I joined Sophien Kamoun’s group as a postdoctoral scientist. My research is focussed on exploring effector biology of filamentous pathogens. We use the model system P. infestans- N. benthamiana to decipher how effectors function to perturb host processes. I am particularly interested in deciphering the cellular and biochemical activities of P. infestans effectors, and how they evolve to successfully colonize their host plants.


Prince DC, Rallapalli G, Xu D, Schoonbeek H-J, Cevik V, Asai S, Kemen E, Cruz-Mireles N, Kemen A, Belhaj K, Schornack S, Kamoun S, Holub EB, Halkier BA, Jones JDG (2017)

Albugo-imposed changes to tryptophan-derived antimicrobial metabolite biosynthesis may contribute to suppression of non-host resistance to Phytophthora infestans in Arabidopsis thaliana. BMC Biology 15:20 DOI 10.1186/s12915-017-0360-z

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Dagdas Y, Pandey P, Sanguankiattichai N, Tumtas Y, Belhaj K, Duggan C, Segretin M, Kamoun S, Bozkurt TO (2017)

Host autophagosomes are diverted to a plant-pathogen interface. bioRxiv preprint January 30, 2017 doi:

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Wu CH, Abd-El-Haliem A, Bozkurt TO, Belhaj K, Terauchi R, Vossen JH, Kamoun S (2016)

NLR signaling network mediates immunity to diverse plant pathogens. bioRxiv preprint November 29, 2016 doi:

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Maqbool A, Hughes RK, Dagdas YF, Tregidgo N, Zess E, Belhaj K, Round A, Bozkurt TO, Kamoun S, Banfield MJ (2016)

Structural basis of host Autophagy-related protein 8 (ATG8) binding by the Irish potato famine pathogen effector protein PexRD54. J Biol Chem. 2016 Jul 25. pii: jbc.M116.744995.

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Belhaj K, Cano LM, Prince DC, Kemen A, Yoshida K, Dagdas YF, Etherington GJ, Schoonbeek HJ, van Esse HP, Jones JD, Kamoun S, Schornack S (2016)

Arabidopsis late blight: Infection of a nonhost plant by Albugo laibachii enables full colonization by Phytophthora infestans. Cell Microbiol. 2016 Jun 15. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12628.

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Dagdas YF, Belhaj K, Maqbool A, Chaparro-Garcia A, Pandey P, Petre B, Tabassum N, Cruz-Mireles N, Hughes RK, Sklenar J, Win J, Menke F, Findlay K, Banfield MJ, Kamoun S, Bozkurt TO

An effector of the Irish potato famine pathogen antagonizes a host autophagy cargo receptor. Elife. 2016 Jan 14;5. pii: e10856. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10856

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Belhaj K, Cano LM, Prince DC, Kemen A, Yoshida K, Dagdas YF, Etherington GJ, Schoonbeek H, van Esse HP, Jones JDG, Kamoun S, Schornack S (2015)

Arabidopsis late blight: Infection of a nonhost plant by Albugo laibachii enables full colonization by Phytophthora infestans. bioRxiv preprint December 23, 2015 doi:

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Wu CH, Belhaj K, Bozkurt TO, Birk MS, Kamoun S (2015)

Helper NLR proteins NRC2a/b and NRC3 but not NRC1 are required for Pto-mediated cell death and resistance in Nicotiana benthamiana. New Phytol. 2015 Nov 23. doi: 10.1111/nph.13764.

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Ilyas M, Hörger AC, Bozkurt TO, van den Burg HA, Kaschani F, Kaiser M, Belhaj K, Smoker M, Joosten MH, Kamoun S, van der Hoorn RA (2015)

Functional Divergence of Two Secreted Immune Proteases of Tomato. Current Biology 25: 2300–2306.

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Belhaj K, Chaparro-Garcia A, Kamoun S, Patron NJ, Nekrasov V (2015)

Editing plant genomes with CRISPR/Cas9. Current Opinion in Biotechnology Volume 32, April 2015, Pages 76–84

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Bozkurt TO, Belhaj K, Dagdas YF, Chaparro-Garcia A, Wu CH, Cano LM, Kamoun S (2014)

Rerouting of plant late endocytic trafficking towards a pathogen interface. Traffic. 2014 Nov 28. doi: 10.1111/tra.12245. [Epub ahead of print]

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Belhaj, K., Chaparro-Garcia, A., Kamoun, S. and Nekrasov, V. (2013)

Plant genome editing made easy: targeted mutagenesis in model and crop plants using the CRISPR/Cas system. Plant Methods, 9:39.

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De Vaux V., Pfefferli C., Passannante M., Belhaj K., Von Essen A., Sprecher S.G., Müller F. and Wicky C. 2013.

The chromatin remodeler LET-418/Mi-2 plays a conserved role in lifespan determination. Aging cell. Vol 12,6 1012:1020.

Win, J., Chaparro-Garcia, A., Belhaj, K., Saunders, D.G.O., Yoshida, K., Dong, S., Schornack, S., Zipfel, C., Robatzek, S., Hogenhout, S.A., and Kamoun, S. 2012.

Effector Biology of Plant-associated Organisms: Concepts and Perspectives. Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology, 77:235-247.

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Belhaj K., Lin B. and Mauch F. 2009.

The chloroplast protein RPH1 plays a role in the immune response of Arabidopsis to Phytophthora brassicae. Plant journal. Vol 58, 2, 287:298.

Job History

2012 – present Postdoctoral Scientist, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK.

2010 – 2011 Postdoctoral Scientist, University of Fribourg-Institute of Zoology, Switzerland.

2002 – 2008 PhD Student, University of Fribourg-Institute of Zoology, Switzerland.

2002 Predoctoral Student, ETH Zürich-Department of Biochemistry, Switzerland.

2000 – 2002 Masters in Plant Breeding, ETH Zürich-INT, Switzerland.

1994 – 1999 Engineer in Agronomy, National Institute of Agronomy (INAT), Tunisia.