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