Gianni M. Castiglione

Gianni M. Castiglione

Postdoctoral Associate/Lab Manager
Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cell and Systems Biology
University of Toronto
25 Harbord St., Toronto, ON, M5S 3G5


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Current Research

  • Engineering tetrapod rhodopsins through evolution-guided design
  • Convergent evolution of arrestin-rhodopsin interactions in dim-light adapted animals
  • Cold adaptation of Antarctic Icefish rhodopsins


Ph.D. (2017) — University of Toronto, Molecular Biology and Evolution
Thesis: Functional Characterization and Molecular Evolutionary Analyses of Rhodopsin in Fishes and other Vertebrates
Advisor: Dr. Belinda Chang

B.Sc. (2011) — University of Toronto, Cell Biology and Philosophy (Bioethics)
Advisors: Dr. Dinesh Christendat and Dr. Alan Moses


Castiglione, G.M., Schott, R.K., Hauser F.E., and B.S.W. Chang (2018). Convergent selection pressures drive the evolution of rhodopsin kinetics at high altitudes via nonparallel mechanisms. Evolution. 72 (1): 170-186.

Hauser, F.E., Ilves, K.L., Schott, R.K., Castiglione, G.M., López-Fernández, H., and Chang. B.S.W. 2017. Accelerated evolution and functional divergence of the dim light visual pigment accompanies cichlid colonization of Central America. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 34 (10): 2650-2664.

Castiglione, G.M., Hauser F.E., Liao B.S., Lujan N.K., Van Nynatten A., Morrow J.M., Schott R.K., Bhattacharyya N., Dungan S.Z., and B.S.W. Chang (2017). Evolution of nonspectral rhodopsin function at high altitudes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114 (28): 7385-7390. PDF.

        Featured in: Science Newsline, Phys Org , Science Daily, U of T News

Morrow J.M., Castiglione G.M., Dungan S.Z., Tang P.L., Bhattacharyya N., Hauser F.E., Chang. B.S.W. 2017. An experimental comparison of human and bovine rhodopsin provides insight into the molecular basis of retinal disease. FEBS Letters. 591 (12): 1720-1731. PDF.

Hauser F., Schott R.K., Castiglione G.M., Van Nynatten A., Kosyakov A., Tang P., Gow D., Chang B.S.W. 2016. Comparative sequence analyses of rhodopsin and RPE65 reveal patterns of selective constraint across hereditary retinal disease mutations. Visual Neuroscience. 33 (E002): 13 pages. PDF.

Peek J., Castiglione G., Shi T., Christendat D. 2014. Isolation and molecular characterization of the shikimate dehydrogenase domain from the Toxoplasma gondii AROM complex. Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology. 194(1-2):16-9. PDF.

Castiglione, G. 2011. Ethics as a common language. University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics Voice 17(2): 8-9.


Gutierrez E.A., Castiglione G., Morrow J., and Chang B. 2017. Rhodopsin function elucidates visual adaptation to dim light and highlights contrasting sensory specializations in bats. Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. Austin, TX. U.S.A. (Poster) 

Castiglione G. and Chang B. 2017. Coevolutionary Forces Reveal an Alternative Origin for Dim-Light Vision. Evolution. Portland, OR. U.S.A. (Poster)

Castiglione G., Lujan N., and Chang B. 2017. Convergent cold-adaptation of the visual pigment rhodopsin at high altitudes. Evolution. Portland, OR. U.S.A. (Oral)

Hauser F., Ilves K., Schott R., Castiglione G., Lopez-Fernandez H., and Chang B. 2017. Complex patterns of opsin gene divergence during the radiation of Neotropical cichlids. Evolution. Portland, OR. U.S.A. (Oral)

Gutierrez E. A., Castiglione G., Morrow, J.M., and Chang B. 2017. Functional evolution of the dim-light sensitive visual pigment in bats is associated with contrasting sensory ecologies. Evolution. Portland, OR. U.S.A. (Oral)

Castiglione G.M. and Chang B.S.W. (Ph.D.) 2016. Investigations of Rhodopsin Structural Motifs Disrupted in Retinitis Pigmentosa. 58th Annual Vision Science Research Day, University Health Network, Toronto, ON. (Poster)

Hauser F.E. (B.Sc.), Tang P.L., Schott R.K. (M.Sc.), Castiglione G.M., Van Nynatten A. (B.Sc.), Heon E. (M.D.), Chang B.S.W. (Ph.D.) 2016. Application of codon-based evolutionary models in the prediction and validation of pathogenic mutations. Great Lakes Bioinformatics and Canadian Computational Biology Conference, Toronto ON. (Poster)

Cook T. (M.D.), Dias A. (Ph.D.), Richards M. (M.D.), Castiglione G.M. (moderator). 2016. A Clash of Medical Systems? A Critical Discussion on the Art of Healing. University of Toronto, Toronto ON. (Oral, panel)

Bannister A. (Ph.D.), Castiglione G.M. 2016. Is God Relevant? University of Toronto, Toronto ON. (Oral, debate)

Castiglione G.M., Chang B.S.W. (Ph.D). 2015. Cold-Adaptation in Dim-Light Sensor Rhodopsin. Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto ON. (Oral, Departmental Seminar)

Castiglione G.M. 2015. Secular Humanism. Spiritual & Religious Care Department, Scarborough Hospital, Toronto ON. (Oral, Didactic)

Castiglione G.M., Liao B.S. (B.Sc.), Lujan N.K. (Ph.D.), and Chang B.S.W. (Ph.D.) 2015. Rhodopsin kinetics adapt to high altitudes through decreased dark-state and light-activated stability. 57th Annual Vision Science Research Day, University Health Network, Toronto, ON. (Poster)

Castiglione G.M. 2015. Humanism and the Secular Age. Our Whole Society: Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide, Vancouver B.C. (Oral)

Rizvi A. (M.D.), Castiglione G. (moderator). 2014. Atheism and Islam. University of Toronto, Toronto ON. (Oral)

Castiglione G.M., Lujan N. K. (Ph.D.), Chang B.S.W. 2013 (Ph.D.). Complex Patterns of Selection in High Altitude Andean Mountain Catfish Rhodopsin.  Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, Chicago IL.  (Poster)

Castiglione, G., Lujan N. K. (Ph.D.), Chang B.S.W. (Ph.D.) 2012. Molecular Evolution of High Altitude Catfish Visual Pigments. Evolution. Ottawa ON. (Poster)

Castiglione, G., Peek J. (Ph.D.), Shi T. (M.D.), Christendat D. (Ph.D.), 2011. Isolation and molecular characterization of the shikimate dehydrogenase from Toxoplasma gondii. Cell and Systems Biology Departmental Conference, University of Toronto, Toronto ON. (Poster)

University of Toronto Awards/Funding

Postdoctoral Fellowship — Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cell and Systems Biology, 2017-2018

Vision Science Research Program Scholarship, 2015-2016                      

TATP Teaching Excellence Award Final Shortlist, 2015

Vision Science Research Program Scholarship, 2014-2015

Ramsay Wright Scholarship in Cell and Systems Biology, 2013

School of Graduate Studies Grant, 2013

University of Toronto Fellowship, 2011- 2014                    

Research Assistantship — Cell and Systems Biology,  2011- 2014

Frederick P. Ide Graduate Award — Cell and Systems Biology, 2012-2013