Mitochondrial Capture by a Transmissible Cancer

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Science  21 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6015, pp. 303
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197696

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Canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) is an infectious cell line circulating in many feral dog populations. It originated once, about 10,000 years ago. Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial sequences from dogs, wolves, and a geographically diverse collection of CTVT samples indicate that the cancer has periodically acquired mitochondria from its host. We suggest that this may be because the cancer’s own mitochondria have a tendency to degenerate, due to high mutation rates and relaxed selection, resulting in host mitochondria being more fit.

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