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Dr. Todd Gillis
Associate Professor

Dr. Todd Gillis


Office: SSC 3471
Ext: 58786
Lab: SSC 3409/3410
Ext: 56213

The Gillis Lab


My interest in biology derives from having spent most of my summers growing up in, or on, the waters surrounding Tobermory, Ontario. These interests led me to study marine biology at the University of Guelph where I became fascinated by the biochemical and physiological adaptations that allow animals to live under extreme environments. I completed an MSc with Dr. Jim Ballantyne at Guelph looking at temperature adaptation in gill mitochondrial membranes from Arctic and temperate marine bivalves. My PhD, with Dr. Glen Tibbits at Simon Fraser University, focused upon the mechanisms that enable cardiac function in trout at their comparatively low physiological temperature. This work specifically focused on the structure-function relationships of a protein called troponin C that enable it to work at low temperatures. As a NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellow in the lab of Dr. Mike Regnier in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, I worked on a variety of projects looking at the thin filament regulatory proteins and their role in controlling cardiac contractility. Here at Guelph my research program is focused upon the vertebrate heart and the mechanisms that regulate its function. The underlying theme of this work is the evolution of protein structure and function and the role this plays in determining the physiological scope of organisms.


B.Sc. - Guelph 1994
M.Sc. - Guelph 1996
Ph.D. - Simon Fraser University 2002
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington 2002-2005


My general research interests lie in the mechanisms that regulate cardiac function. More specifically I am interested in the role of cardiac proteins in regulating cardiac contraction and how these have been manipulated, through evolution, to enable cardiac function over a range of physiological conditions. A great deal can be learned of the biochemical basis of physiological adaptation by characterizing the function of different protein isoforms cloned from species that live under different environmental conditions. For further detail of the work in my lab please visit the Gillis Lab


Klaiman, J.M., Pyle, W.G. and Gillis, T.E. Cold acclimation increases cardiac myofilament function and ventricular pressure generation in trout. Journal of Experimental Biology 217, 4132-4140 (2014)

Johnson, A.C., Turko, A.J., Klaiman, J.M., Johnston, E.F. and Gillis, T.E. Cold acclimation alters the connective tissue content of the zebrafish (Danio rerio) heart. Journal of Experimental Biology (2014).

Pinto, N., Yang, F.C., Negishi, A., Rheinstadter, M.C., Gillis, T.E. and Fudge, D.S. Self-assembly enhances the strength of fibres made from vimentin intermediate filament proteins. Biomacromolecules 10; 15, 574-581 (2014)

Johnston, E.F., Alderman, SL. and Gillis, T.E. Chronic hypoxia exposure of trout embryos alters swimming performance and cardiac gene expression in larvae. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 86, 567-575 (2013).

Smith, G.S.T., Samborska, B., Hawley, S.P., Klaiman, J.M., Gillis, T.E., Jones, N., Boggs, J.M. and Harauz, G. Nuclear-localized 21.5-kDa myelin basic protein promotes oligodendrocyte proliferation and neurite outgrowth in co-culture unlike the plasma membrane-associated 18.5-kDa isoform. Journal of Neural Biology 91, 349-362. (2013)

Negishi, A., Armstrong, C., Kreplak, L., Rheinstadter, M., Lim, L., Gillis, T.E. and Fudge, D.S. The production of fibers and films from solubilized hagfish slime thread proteins. Biomacromolecules 13, 3475-3482 (2012).

Alderman, S.L., Klaiman, J.M., Deck, C.A. and Gillis, T.E. Effect of cold acclimation on troponin I isoform expression in striated muscle of rainbow trout. American Journal of Physiology 303, R168-R176. (2012)

Gillis, T.E. Evolution of the regulatory control of the vertebrate heart; the role of the contractile proteins. Book chapter in Ontogeny and Phylogeny of the vertebrate heart. Springer, Tobias Wang Editor. (2012)

Klaiman, J.M., Fenna, A.J., Shield, H.A., Macri, J. and Gillis, T.E. Cardiac remodeling in fish: Strategies to maintain heart function during temperature change. Plos One 6(9): e24464. Epub (2011).

Miller, S.C., Gillis, T.E. and Wright, P.A. The ontogeny of regulatory control of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) heart and how this is influenced by chronic hypoxia exposure Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 1989-1996 (2011).

Kirkpatrick, K.P., Robertson, A.S., Klaiman, J. and Gillis, T.E. The influence of trout cardiac troponin I and PKA phosphorylation on the Ca2+ affinity of the cardiac troponin complex. Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 1981-1988 (2011).

Gillis, T.E. and Klaiman J. The influence of PKA phosphorylation on the Ca2+ activation of force generation by trout cardiac muscle. Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 2065-2072 (2011).

Shaffer, J.F. and Gillis, T.E. Evolution of the regulatory control of vertebrate striated muscle: The roles of troponin I and myosin binding protein-C. Physiological Genomics 4, 406-419 (2010).

Miller S.C, Reeb S.E, Wright P.A. and Gillis, T.E. The influence of dissolved oxygen and water flow rate on growth and metabolic rate of rainbow trout embryos. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 85, 2170-2177 (2008)

Liang, B., Chung, F., Qu, Y., Gillis, T.E., Tikunova, S.B., Davis, J.P. and G.F. Tibbits. The Familial Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy related cardiac troponin C mutation, L29Q affects Ca2+ binding and myofilament contractility. Physiological Genomics 33, 257-266. (2008).

Gillis, T.E., Marshall, C.R. and G. F. Tibbits. Functional and Evolutionary Relationships of Troponin C. Physiological Genomics 32, 16-27 (2007).

Gillis, T.E., Martyn, D.A., Rivera, A.J. and Regnier, M. Investigation of thin filament near-neighbor regulatory unit interactions during skinned rat cardiac muscle force development. Journal of Physiology 580, 561-576. (2007).

Kreutziger, K.L., Gillis, T.E., Davis, J.P., Tikunova S.B. and Regnier M. Influence of enhanced troponin C Ca2+ binding affinity on cooperative thin filament activation in skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology 583, 337-350. (2007)

Moreno-Gonzalez, A., Gillis, T.E., Rivera, A.J., Chase, P.B., Martyn, D.A. and Regnier, M. (2007). Thin filament regulation of force redevelopment kinetics in rabbit skeletal muscle fibres. Journal of Physiology 579, 313-326. (2007).

Gillis, T.E., Liang, B., Chung, F. and Tibbits, G.F. Increasing mammalian cardiomyocyte contractility with residues identified in trout troponin C. Physiological Genomics 22, 1-7 (2005)

Blumenschein, T.M.A., Gillis, T.E., Tibbits, G.F. and Sykes, B.D. Effect of temperature on the structure of trout cardiac troponin C. Biochemistry 43, 4955-4963 (2004).

Gillis, T.E., Blumenschein, T.M.A., Sykes, B.D. and Tibbits, G.F. The effect of temperature and the F27W mutation on the Ca-activated structural transition of trout cardiac troponin C. Biochemistry 4, 6418-6426 (2003).

Gillis, T.E., Moyes, C.D. and Tibbits, G.F. Sequence mutations in teleost cardiac troponin C that are permissive of high site II Ca 2+ affinity. American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology 284, C1176-C1184 (2003).

Gillis, T.E. and Tibbits, G.F. Beating the cold: The functional evolution of troponin C in teleost fish. (Invited Review). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology 132, 763-772 (2002).

Gillis, T.E ., Marshall , C.R., Xue, X.H., Borgford, T.J. and Tibbits, G.F. Ca 2+ binding to cardiac troponin C: effects of temperature and pH on mammalian and salmonid isoforms. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology 279, R1707-R1715 (2000).

Gillis, T.E. and Ballantyne, J.S. Mitochondrial membrane composition of two Arctic Marine bivalves mollusks, Serripes groenlandicus and Mya truncata . Lipids 34, 53-57 (1999).

Gillis, T.E. and Ballantyne, J.S. Influences of sub-zero thermal acclimation on mitochondrial membrane composition of temperate marine bivalve mollusks. Lipids 34, 59-66 (1999).

Stuart, J.S., Gillis, T.E. and Ballantyne, J.S. Compositional correlates of metabolic depression in mitochondrial membrane of an estivating snail, Cepaea nemoralis . American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology 275, R1977-R1982 (1998).

Stuart, J.S., Gillis, T.E. and Ballantyne, J.S. Remodeling of phospholipid fatty acids in mitochondrial membranes of an estivating snail. Lipids 33, 787-793 (1998).

Gillis, T.E. and Ballantyne, J.S. Effects of starvation on plasma free amino acids and glucose concentrations in Lake Sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens. Journal of Fish Biology 49, 1306-1316 (1996).

Leblanc, P.J., Gillis, T.E., Gerrits, M.F. and Ballantyne, J.S. Metabolic organization of liver and somatic muscle of landlocked sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, during spawning migration. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73, 916-923 (1995).


IBIO*4200 Integrative Vertebrate Biology
IBIO*4220 Lab Studies in Ichthyology
ZOO*2100 Animal Developmental Biology

Grad Students

Lauren Gatrell (MSc)
Elizabeth Johnston (PhD)

Post Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Sarah Alderman
Dr. Laura Dindia


Comparative Physiology Group at Guelph
"Research to Warm Your Heart" article in At Guelph
Biophysics Interdepartmental Group