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

The PpaA/AerR regulators of photosynthesis gene expression from anoxygenic phototrophic proteobacteria contain heme-binding SCHIC domains.
Moskvin OV, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Gomelsky M J. Bacteriol. 2010 Oct 192 19 5253-6
An oxygen-sensing diguanylate cyclase and phosphodiesterase couple for c-di-GMP control.
Tuckerman JR, Gonzalez G, Sousa EH, Wan X, Saito JA, Alam M, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2009 Oct 48 41 9764-74
Globins synthesize the second messenger bis-(3'-5')-cyclic diguanosine monophosphate in bacteria.
Wan X, Tuckerman JR, Saito JA, Freitas TA, Newhouse JS, Denery JR, Galperin MY, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Alam M J. Mol. Biol. 2009 May 388 2 262-70
Novel heme-based oxygen sensor with a revealing evolutionary history.
Moskvin OV, Kaplan S, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Gomelsky M J. Biol. Chem. 2007 Sep 282 39 28740-8
DosT and DevS are oxygen-switched kinases in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Sousa EH, Tuckerman JR, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Protein Sci. 2007 Aug 16 8 1708-19
A memory of oxygen binding explains the dose response of the heme-based sensor FixL.
Sousa EH, Tuckerman JR, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2007 May 46 21 6249-57
A proximal arginine R206 participates in switching of the Bradyrhizobium japonicum FixL oxygen sensor.
Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Caceres AI, Sousa EH, Tomchick DR, Brautigam C, Gonzalez C, Machius M J. Mol. Biol. 2006 Jun 360 1 80-9
Oxygen blocks the reaction of the FixL-FixJ complex with ATP but does not influence binding of FixJ or ATP to FixL.
Sousa EH, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2005 Nov 44 46 15359-65
Heme-based sensors: defining characteristics, recent developments, and regulatory hypotheses.
Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Gonzalez G J. Inorg. Biochem. 2005 Jan 99 1 1-22
Ancestral hemoglobins in Archaea.
Freitas TA, Hou S, Dioum EM, Saito JA, Newhouse J, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Alam M Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2004 Apr 101 17 6675-80


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