The Tasmanian Devil Transcriptome Reveals Schwann Cell Origins of a Clonally Transmissible Cancer Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.


  • Murchison, EP
  • Tovar, C
  • Hsu, A
  • Bender, HS
  • Kheradpour, P
  • Rebbeck, CA
  • Obendorf, D
  • Conlan, C
  • Bahlo, M
  • Blizzard, CA
  • Pyecroft, S
  • Kreiss, A
  • Kellis, M
  • Stark, A
  • Harkins, TT
  • Graves, JAM
  • Woods, GM
  • Hannon, GJ
  • Papenfuss, AT

publication date

  • January 1, 2010

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