Dr Estrella Luna-Diez PhD

Dr Estrella Luna-Diez

School of Biosciences
Associate Professor in Plant Pathology

Contact details

S223, School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Originally from Spain, Dr Estrella Luna-Diez is a plant pathologist working in the UK since early 2009. Her work is aimed towards plant protection and biosecurity. Dr Luna-Diez studies the sophisticated immune system of plants in order to exploit their resistance capacity to a maximum.


  • BBSRC Future Leader Fellow (2017-2021), University of Sheffield & University of Birmingham
  • P3 Independent Research Fellow, University of Sheffield (2016)
  • Research Associate, University of Sheffield (2013-2015)
  • PhD: Lancaster University / Rothamsted Research (2009-2012)
  • MEng in Agronomy and Crop Science: Polytech University of Valencia (2006-2008)
  • BEng in Agronomy (Horticulture and landscape gardening): University Jaume I of Castellon (2003-2006)


Dr Luna-Díez graduated as Technical Agriculture Engineer from the University Jaume I of Castellon in 2006. She spent a few months travelling before she moved to Valencia, where, in December 2008 she completed a higher engineering degree in Agronomy. In January 2009, she was awarded a Leonardo Da Vinci training fellowship to join the laboratory of Dr. Jurriaan Ton at Rothamsted Research (Harpenden, UK). Seven months into her fellowship, she obtained a studentship to carry on with her doctoral studies based at Rothamsted Research, but as a student of Lancaster University. In November 2012, she completed her PhD in Biological Sciences. After she completed her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the department of Animal and Plant Sciences at The University of Sheffield for 3 years. She then had her son William and came back to work with a fellowship from the Plant, Production and Protection (P3) Centre of the University of Sheffield. During her P3 fellowship, she secured a BBSRC Future Leader Fellowship. The University of Sheffield and P3 hosted the first half of her fellowship. The University of Birmingham hosted the second half of her fellowship where she also held a Lectureship in Plant Pathology, associated to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR). In 2022, Dr Luna-Diez was promoted to Associate Professor and has established a solid research group working on plant immunity in both crops and forest trees. Currently, she leads the large UKRI-Treescapes project MEMBRA, which studies memory of trees to stress.


Dr Luna-Diez teaching activities are:

-        She is the Module Lead for LM Research Techniques in Molecular Biotechnology (Masters)

-        She also teaches in three modules:

  • Plant Science: from cell to the environment (2nd Year of Biological Sciences)
  • Cell and Developmental Biology (2nd Year of Biological Sciences)
  • Molecular Immunology (3rd Year of Biological Sciences)

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Luna-Diez currently supervises six PhD students:

-        Primary supervisor:

  • Katie Stevens (MIBTP)
  • Mark Raw (Forest Edge)
  • Lamya Majeed (MIBTP)

-        Co-supervisor:

  • Chiara Murena (International PhD student from the University of Porto)
  • Kieran Clark (Forest Edge)
  • Jack Bosanquet (MIBTP)

Dr Luna-Diez currently supervises two MRes students as primary supervisor:

  • Cameron Bailey
  • George Batten 

Opportunities to join Dr Luna-Diez research group: 

An exciting opportunity to join her group through a Prestigious Sainsbury’s PhD studentship funded by The Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Open to home and overseas students. Deadline for application 12th November. Please find all the information about the project here.


Since the start of her degree in Agronomy, Dr Luna-Diez research interests have been driven by the exceptional ability of plants to adapt to hostile environments. From the start of her research career, she has investigated the molecular, genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that mark plant defence responses to diseases. Dr Luna-Diez has extensive experience in plant models and crops, such as Arabidopsis and tomato. Here at the University of Birmingham, she is also implementing her work in forest tree pathology in association with BIFoR. At the moment, she is working in the following research projects: 

  • Epigenetic mechanisms controlling long-lasting priming of defence for the protection of fruit postharvest.

Initially funded by her BBSRC Future Leader Fellowship and later by the Horticulture Quality and Food Waste Network (BBSRC-funded), she studies the effect of priming agents in the protection of tomato harvest against grey mould. Tomato is a major crop world-wide and like other crops, substantial crop yields are lost to diseases. Grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) can cause the loss of over 50% of annual tomato crops. Novel technique development is essential to achieve a competent and eco-friendly tomato industry.  Different priming agents are effective in inducing resistance against B. cinerea in tomato plants. However, little is known about whether these priming agents protects fruit from B. cinerea during tomato post-harvest storage. This project studies whether treatment of tomato plants with priming agents result in a long-lasting induced resistance against grey mould in tomato fruit. We study how long-lasting maintenance of priming is linked to epigenetic modifications such as changes in DNA methylation. 

  • Priming of defence in oak against powdery mildew disease

Funded by the JABBS Foundations, Dr Luna-Diez is studying how oak seedlings and mature trees express priming of defence against the fungal pathogen that causes powdery mildew disease. Her group exploits different omics approaches to unravel the mechanisms that allow oaks to defend themselves and aims to disentangle the reasons why mature trees are less susceptible to the disease than seedlings.  

  • Effect of elevated CO2 in plant immunity

Funded by the JABBS Foundations, her group is focussed in understanding the impact of elevated CO2 in the capacity of plants to activate defence mechanisms. Their group has recently identified that eCO2 triggers enhanced susceptibility to powdery mildew disease in oak seedlings (Sanchez-Lucas et al). Her group continues to study this to unravel the mechanisms of why this occurs and to identify the impact of eCO2 in mature trees.

  • MEMBRA: Understanding MEMory of UK treescapes for Better Resilience and Adaptation

This is a large UKRI-funded project through the strategy of The Future of UK Treescapes. Dr Luna-Diez leads a group of 10 investigators on the understanding of how trees create, maintain and transmit memory of stress. For more information about this large project please visit the MEMBRA website: membra.info

Other activities

From 2014-2018, Dr Luna-Diez was fully involved with the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom. She chaired the Society from July 2017 and June 2018. If you are a Spanish researcher in the UK, do not hesitate and join this fantastic organization.


Publications from the last five years:

  • Rosa Sanchez-Lucas, Carolina Mayoral, Mark Raw, Maria-Anna Mousoraki and Estrella Luna. Elevated CO2 results in enhanced growth, photosynthetic rate and susceptibility to powdery mildew in oak seedlings. Biochemical Journal
  • Katie Stevens, Iain Johnston and Estrella Luna. A roadmap to understanding the role of abscisic acid in defence. Quantitative Plant Biology
  • Mojgan Rabiey, Thomas Welch, Rosa Sanchez-Lucas, Mark Raw, Katie Stevens, Graeme Kettles, Marco Catoni, Megan McDonald, Robert Jackson and Estrella Luna, 2022. Scaling-up to understand tree-pathogen interactions: A steep-tough climb or a walk in the park? Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 68
  • Marco Catoni, Raúl Alvarez-Venegas, Dawn Worrall, Geoff Holroyd, Aarón Barraza, Estrella Luna, Jurriaan Ton and Michael Richard Roberts, 2022. Long-lasting priming by β-aminobutyric acid is marked by DNA hypomethylation. Frontiers in Plant Sciences.
  • Jonas De Kesel, Uwe Conrath, Víctor Flors, Estrella Luna, Melissa H Mageroy, Brigitte Mauch-Mani, Victoria Pastor, María J Pozo, Corné MJ Pieterse, Jurriaan Ton, Tina Kyndt, 2021. The Induced Resistance Lexicon: Do’s and Don’ts. Trends in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2021.01.001
  • Daniel De Vega, Nicola Holden, Pete E Hedley, Jenny Morris, Estrella Luna* and Adrian Newton*, 2020. Chitosan primes plant defence mechanisms against Botrytis cinerea, including expression of Avr9/Cf-9 rapidly-elicited genes.  Plant, Cell and Environment. 1–14.
  • Roland E. Schwarzenbacher, Grace Wardell, Joost Stassen, Emily Guest, Peijun Zhang, Estrella Luna and Jurriaan Ton, 2020. The IBI1 Receptor of b-Aminobutyric Acid Interacts with VOZ Transcription Factors to Regulate Abscisic Acid Signaling and Callose-Associated Defense. Molecular Plant. 13, 1–15 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molp.2020.07.010
  • Estrella Luna, Amélie Flandin, Cédric Cassan, Sylvain Prigent, Chloé Chevanne, Camélia Feyrouse Kadiri, Yves Gibon, Pierre Pétriacq, 2020. Metabolomics to Exploit the Primed Immune System of Tomato Fruit. Metabolites. 10 (3), 96
  • Graeme Kettles and Estrella Luna: Food Security in 2044: How do we control the fungal threat?, 2019. Fungal Biology 123: 558e564.
  • Pierre Pétriacq, Ana López and Estrella Luna*, 2018. Fruit Decay to Diseases: Can Induced Resistance and Priming Help? Plants 7 (4),
  • Samuel W Wilkinson, Victoria Pastor, Sam Paplauskas, Pierre Petriacq and Estrella Luna*, 2018. Long-lasting β-aminobutyric acid-induced resistance protects tomato fruit against Botrytis cinerea. Plant Pathology. 10.1111/ppa.12725 (* indicates corresponding author)
  • Joost Stassen, Ana López, Ritusrhi Jain, David Pascual-Pardo, Estrella Luna, Lisa Smith and Jurriaan Ton, 2018.  The relationship between transgenerational acquired resistance and global DNA methylation in Arabidopsis. Scientific Reports 8 (1), 14761

View all publications in research portal