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

Signal transduction by heme-containing PAS-domain proteins.
Gilles-Gonzalez MA, Gonzalez G J. Appl. Physiol. 2004 Feb 96 2 774-83
A distal arginine in oxygen-sensing heme-PAS domains is essential to ligand binding, signal transduction, and structure.
Dunham CM, Dioum EM, Tuckerman JR, Gonzalez G, Scott WG, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2003 Jul 42 25 7701-8
NPAS2: a gas-responsive transcription factor.
Dioum EM, Rutter J, Tuckerman JR, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA, McKnight SL Science 2002 Dec 298 5602 2385-7
Nature of the displaceable heme-axial residue in the EcDos protein, a heme-based sensor from Escherichia coli.
Gonzalez G, Dioum EM, Bertolucci CM, Tomita T, Ikeda-Saito M, Cheesman MR, Watmough NJ, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2002 Jul 41 26 8414-21
Max Perutz never grew old.
Gilles-Gonzalez MA IUBMB Life 2002 Jul 54 1 41-2
Ligand and oxidation-state specific regulation of the heme-based oxygen sensor FixL from Sinorhizobium meliloti.
Tuckerman JR, Gonzalez G, Dioum EM, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2002 May 41 19 6170-7
A comparative resonance Raman analysis of heme-binding PAS domains: heme iron coordination structures of the BjFixL, AxPDEA1, EcDos, and MtDos proteins.
Tomita T, Gonzalez G, Chang AL, Ikeda-Saito M, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2002 Apr 41 15 4819-26
Dos, a heme-binding PAS protein from Escherichia coli, is a direct oxygen sensor.
Delgado-Nixon VM, Gonzalez G, Gilles-Gonzalez MA Biochemistry 2000 Mar 39 10 2685-91


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