Dr. Gilles-Gonzalez earned her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she examined structure-function relationships in the proton-pumping membrane protein bacteriorhodopsin under the mentorship of Dr. Gobind Khorana. During postdoctoral research with Dr. Donald Helinski at UC San Diego, she discovered FixL to be a heme protein and identified it as the first known direct sensor of molecular oxygen. During postdoctoral research with Dr. Max Perutz at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, she began to elucidate FixL's signal-transduction mechanism.

Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which living organisms respond to oxygen and other physiological gases. Since demonstrating that FixL is an enzyme (a protein histidine kinase) that is switched on and off by a sensory heme, she and her colleagues have established that FixL belongs to a much broader family of sensors with varying heme-binding folds and enzymatic activities. Members of this family include diguanylate cyclases, c-di-GMP phosphodiesterases, and transcription factors. The research has expanded to examine sensors that span all three major kingdoms of life and govern important physiological adaptations to fluctuating levels of oxygen. These include sensors that control dormancy in pathogenic bacteria such as mycobacterium tuberculosis.


SUNY at Stony Brook (1980), Biochemistry
Graduate School
Massachusetts Inst of Technol (1988), Biochemistry

Research Interest

  • Biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular genetics of signal transduction
  • Biological heme-based sensors
  • Protein engineering
  • Sensory globins, PAS-domains, and GAF-domains
  • Signal-transducing kinases, cyclases, and phosphodiesterases


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Insights into signal transduction by a hybrid FixL: Denaturation study of on and off states of a multi-domain oxygen sensor.
Guimarães WG, Gondim ACS, Costa PMDS, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Lopes LGF, Carepo MSP, Sousa EHS J. Inorg. Biochem. 2017 Apr 172 129-137
Signal transduction and phosphoryl transfer by a FixL hybrid kinase with low oxygen affinity: importance of the vicinal PAS domain and receiver aspartate.
Sousa EH, Tuckerman JR, Gondim AC, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2013 Jan 52 3 456-65
Novel FixL homologues in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii bind heme and O(2).
Murthy UM, Wecker MS, Posewitz MC, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Ghirardi ML FEBS Lett. 2012 Dec 586 24 4282-8
Hell's Gate globin I: an acid and thermostable bacterial hemoglobin resembling mammalian neuroglobin.
Teh AH, Saito JA, Baharuddin A, Tuckerman JR, Newhouse JS, Kanbe M, Newhouse EI, Rahim RA, Favier F, Didierjean C, Sousa EH, Stott MB, Dunfield PF, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Najimudin N, Alam M FEBS Lett. 2011 Oct 585 20 3250-8


Featured Books Legend Featured Books

Honors & Awards

  • Ohio State University Woman Pioneer in the STEM Fields
    Recognition for leadership in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (2007)
  • Forum Engelberg Prize Award, Max F. Perutz Designate
    Postdoctoral award in recognition for forging connections between research, ethics, industry, and government. (1991-1995)
  • NIH
    Postdoctoral Fellowship (1988-1991)
  • NIH
    National Research Service Award (1982)
  • NSF
    Undergraduate Summer Research Opportunity Award (1978)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Chemical Society
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • New York Academy of Sciences
  • The Biophysical Society