Genome sequencing and analysis of the Tasmanian devil and its transmissible cancer

Cell. 2012 Feb 17;148(4):780-91. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.11.065.


The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), the largest marsupial carnivore, is endangered due to a transmissible facial cancer spread by direct transfer of living cancer cells through biting. Here we describe the sequencing, assembly, and annotation of the Tasmanian devil genome and whole-genome sequences for two geographically distant subclones of the cancer. Genomic analysis suggests that the cancer first arose from a female Tasmanian devil and that the clone has subsequently genetically diverged during its spread across Tasmania. The devil cancer genome contains more than 17,000 somatic base substitution mutations and bears the imprint of a distinct mutational process. Genotyping of somatic mutations in 104 geographically and temporally distributed Tasmanian devil tumors reveals the pattern of evolution and spread of this parasitic clonal lineage, with evidence of a selective sweep in one geographical area and persistence of parallel lineages in other populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clonal Evolution
  • Endangered Species
  • Facial Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Facial Neoplasms / genetics
  • Facial Neoplasms / pathology
  • Facial Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Male
  • Marsupialia / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Tasmania / epidemiology

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AEFK00000000
  • GENBANK/JN216828