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

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


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Bites and Stings / veterinary
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Facial Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Facial Neoplasms / genetics
  • Facial Neoplasms / pathology
  • Facial Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Neoplasm
  • Genome, Mitochondrial
  • Genotype
  • Marsupialia* / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Myelin Basic Protein / genetics
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Schwann Cells* / physiology
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Membrane Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • Myelin Basic Protein
  • periaxin

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE18352