Genomic Restructuring in the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour: Chromosome Painting and Gene Mapping Provide Clues to Evolution of a Transmissible Tumour Academic Article uri icon


  • Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a fatal, transmissible malignancy that threatens the world's largest marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian devil, with extinction. First recognised in 1996, DFTD has had a catastrophic effect on wild devil numbers, and intense research efforts to understand and contain the disease have since demonstrated that the tumour is a clonal cell line transmitted by allograft. We used chromosome painting and gene mapping to deconstruct the DFTD karyotype and determine the chromosome and gene rearrangements involved in carcinogenesis. Chromosome painting on three different DFTD tumour strains determined the origins of marker chromosomes and provided a general overview of the rearrangement in DFTD karyotypes. Mapping of 105 BAC clones by fluorescence in situ hybridisation provided a finer level of resolution of genome rearrangements in DFTD strains. Our findings demonstrate that only limited regions of the genome, mainly chromosomes 1 and X, are rearranged in DFTD. Regions rearranged in DFTD are also highly rearranged between different marsupials. Differences between strains are limited, reflecting the unusually stable nature of DFTD. Finally, our detailed maps of both the devil and tumour karyotypes provide a physical framework for future genomic investigations into DFTD.


  • Graves, Jenny
  • Deakin, Janine E
  • Bender, Hannah S
  • Pearse, Anne-Maree
  • Rens, Willem
  • O'Brien, Patricia CM
  • Ferguson-Smith, Malcolm A
  • Cheng, Yuanyuan
  • Morris, Katrina
  • Taylor, Robyn
  • Stuart, Andrew
  • Belov, Katherine
  • Amemiya, Chris T
  • Murchison, Elizabeth P
  • Papenfuss, Anthony T
  • Marshall Graves, Jennifer A

publication date

  • February 1, 2012