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Science. 2010 Jan 1;327(5961):84-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1180616.

The Tasmanian devil transcriptome reveals Schwann cell origins of a clonally transmissible cancer.

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  • 1Watson School of Biological Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1 Bungtown Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA.


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.

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