Order-level fern plastome phylogenomics: new insights from Hymenophyllales

Li Yaung Kuo, Xinping Qi, Hong Ma, Fay Wei Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Premise of the Study: Filmy ferns (Hymenophyllales) are a highly specialized lineage, having mesophyll one-cell layer thick and inhabiting particularly shaded and humid environments. The phylogenetic placement of Hymenophyllales has been inconclusive, and while over 87 whole fern plastomes have been published, none was from Hymenophyllales. To better understand the evolutionary history of filmy ferns, we sequenced the first complete plastome for this order. Methods: We compiled a phylogenomic plastome data set encompassing all 11 fern orders, and reconstructed phylogenies using different data types (nucleotides, codons, and amino acids) and partition schemes (codon positions and loci). To infer the evolution of fern plastome organization, we coded plastome features, including inversions, inverted repeat boundary shifts, gene losses, and tRNA anticodon sequences as characters, and reconstructed the ancestral states for these characters. Key Results: We discovered a suite of novel, Hymenophyllales-specific plastome structures that likely resulted from repeated expansions and contractions of the inverted repeat regions. Our phylogenetic analyses reveal that Hymenophyllales is highly supported as either sister to Gleicheniales or to Gleicheniales + the remaining non-Osmundales leptosporangiates, depending on the data type and partition scheme. Conclusions: Although our analyses could not confidently resolve the phylogenetic position of Hymenophyalles, the results here highlight the danger of drawing conclusions from “all-in” phylogenomic data set without exploring potential inconsistencies in the data. Finally, our first order-level reconstruction of fern plastome structural evolution provides a useful framework for future plastome research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1545-1555
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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