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Indiana University Bloomington

Department of Biology

Faculty & Research

Faculty Profile

Gerald Gastony

Photo of Gerald Gastony
Research Images
Research photo by Gerald Gastony

Research photo by Gerald Gastony

Research photo by Gerald Gastony

Research photo by Gerald Gastony

Professor Emeritus of Biology
Contact Information
By telephone: unlisted phone
no office

Ph.D., Harvard University, 1971

Research Description

My lab is broadly interested in evolutionary and phylogenetic questions in vascular plants, particularly in the homosporous ferns.

Genome Structure and Evolution in Homosporous Ferns — Homosporous ferns are characterized by high chromosome numbers (n average = 57), suggesting that they are polyploids compared to the heterosporous angiosperms (n average = 16), but isozyme gene expression patterns of ferns are the same as those typical of diploid angiosperms.  This paradoxical combination of high chromosome numbers and diploid gene expression led to the hypothesis that homosporous ferns are products of ancient polyploidization events (paleopolyploids) with subsequent divergence and silencing of genes in the extra genomes.  With support from the National Science Foundation, we have generated and genotyped ~500 doubled haploid lines (DHLs) to construct a high resolution genetic linkage map of Ceratopteris richardii (right), a model homosporous fern, to investigate this hypothesis.  In this first characterization of a homosporous fern genome, we use restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers to infer the number of gene copies and their distribution in the genome and amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs) and isozyme markers to increase saturation of the linkage map.  This project is focused on the following questions.  Are the majority of genes duplicated?  If so, what is the average number of copies for each gene?  Do most genes have a similar number of copies, or do they vary widely in copy number?  How are duplicate genes distributed across the genome?  Are entire sets of genes duplicated and recognizable as homoeologous chromosomal segments, or are paralogues scattered haphazardly across the genome?  If paleopolyploidization is evident, are homoeologous chromosomes recognizable or are they highly rearranged?  Duplication of all or most sets of genes combined with collinear gene orders for duplicated chromosomal segments would provide strong evidence of past polyploidization. Resulting publications that answer some of these questions to date are those from 2006 and 2007 in the listing below.

Homosporous ferns are the vast majority of species that compose the clade that is the phylogenetic sister group to seed plants.  Our high resolution genetic linkage map of a model homosporous fern is therefore significant for the following reasons.  1) It provides the first detailed characterization of a genome of a homosporous vascular plant, thereby broadening our knowledge of the evolution of genome structure in vascular plants.  2) It generates the most comprehensive evidence bearing on paleopolyploidy in homosporous ferns to date, thus providing the foundation for future studies of their biology and evolution.  3) It makes available to the scientific community the ~500 fully genotyped DHLs of plants developed in the course of this genome mapping project.

Molecular Phylogenetics and Systematics of Desert-Adapted Cheilanthoid Ferns — Specialists consider cheilanthoid ferns as one of six subfamilies of the homosporous fern family Pteridaceae and have long regarded them as a major evolutionary unit of several hundred species largely adapted to xerically harsh, semi-desert conditions, as in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.  These same specialists have also conceded that determining natural evolutionary lines within this group by traditional taxonomic means is virtually impossible, perhaps because convergent evolution has strongly modified the morphological features of cheilanthoid species as they became adapted to their harsh environments, as exemplified (right) by this species of Cheilanthes growing among boulders in a Nevada habitat that becomes seasonally very hot and dry.  We use cladistic analysis of phylogenetically informative molecular data (mutations in chloroplast DNA restriction sites and in the nucleotide sequences of chloroplast and nuclear genes) to infer major evolutionary lineages that can be recognized as natural genera and infrageneric taxa within the cheilanthoid ferns.

Select Publications
Nakazato, T., M. S. Barker, L. H. Rieseberg, and G. J. Gastony.  2008.  Evolution of the Nuclear Genome of Ferns and Lycophytes.  Pp. xxx–yyy.  In: The Biology and Evolution of Ferns and Lycophytes (C. H. Haufler and T. Ranker, eds.).  Cambridge University Press.  In press.
Rothfels, C. J., M. D. Windham, A. L. Grusz, G. J. Gastony, and K. M. Pryer.  2008.  Toward a monophyletic Notholaena (Pteridaceae): Resolving patterns of evolutionary convergence in xeric-adapted ferns.  Taxon: In press.
Scott, R.J., G.J. Gastony, J.W. Weatherford, and T. Nakazato.  2007. Characterization of four members of the alpha-tubulin gene family in Ceratopteris richardii.  Amer. Fern J. 97:47-65.
Nakazato, T., M.-K. Jung, E.A. Housworth, L.H. Rieseberg, and G.J. Gastony. 2007. A genome-wide study of reproductive barriers between allopatric populations of a homosporous fern, Ceratopteris richardii.  Genetics 177:1-10
Nakazato, T. and G.J. Gastony. 2006. High-throughput RFLP genotyping method for large genomes based on a chemiluminescent detection system. Plant Molec. Biol. Rep. 24:245a-245f.
Nakazato, T., M.-K. Jung, E.A. Housworth, L.H. Rieseberg, and G.J. Gastony. 2006. Genetic map-based analysis of genome structure in the homosporous fern Ceratopteris richardii. Genetics 173:1585-1597.
Nakazato, T. and G.J. Gastony. 2003.  Molecular phylogenetics of Anogramma species and related genera (Pteridaceae: Taenitidoideae).  Syst. Bot. 28(3):490–502 (Cover).
Gastony, G.J. and D.R. Rollo. 1998. Cheilanthoid ferns (Pteridaceae: Cheilanthoideae) in the southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico—a molecular phylogenetic reassessment of generic lines. Aliso 17: 131–144.
Gastony, G.J. and M.C. Ungerer. 1997. Molecular systematics and a revised taxonomy of the onocleoid ferns (Dryopteridaceae: Onocleeae). Amer. J. Bot. 84: 840–849.
Gastony, G.J.. 1991. Gene silencing in a polyploid homosporous fern: paleopolyploidy revisited. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88: 1602-1605.

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