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The Tasmanian Devil Transcriptome Reveals Schwann Cell Origins of a Clonally Transmissible Cancer

Science  01 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5961, pp. 84-87
DOI: 10.1126/science.1180616

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Abstract

The Tasmanian devil, a marsupial carnivore, is endangered because of the emergence of a transmissible cancer known as devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). This fatal cancer is clonally derived and is an allograft transmitted between devils by biting. We performed a large-scale genetic analysis of DFTD with microsatellite genotyping, a mitochondrial genome analysis, and deep sequencing of the DFTD transcriptome and microRNAs. These studies confirm that DFTD is a monophyletic clonally transmissible tumor and suggest that the disease is of Schwann cell origin. On the basis of these results, we have generated a diagnostic marker for DFTD and identify a suite of genes relevant to DFTD pathology and transmission. We provide a genomic data set for the Tasmanian devil that is applicable to cancer diagnosis, disease evolution, and conservation biology.

  • * Present address: Cancer Genome Project, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge CB10 1SA, UK.

  • Present address: Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Dr. Bohr-Gasse 7, A-1030, Vienna, Austria.

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