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Molecular characterization of a marine turtle tumor epizootic, profiling external, internal and postsurgical regrowth tumors


Yetsko, K and Farrell, JA and Blackburn, NB and Whitmore, L and Stammnitz, MR and Whilde, J and Eastman, CB and Ramia, DR and Thomas, R and Krstic, A and Linser, P and Creer, S and Carvalho, G and Devlin, MA and Nahvi, N and Leandro, AC and deMaar, TW and Burkhalter, B and Murchison, EP and Schnitzler, C and Duffy, DJ, Molecular characterization of a marine turtle tumor epizootic, profiling external, internal and postsurgical regrowth tumors, Communications Biology, 4, (1) Article 151. ISSN 2399-3642 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence, ( and indicate if changes were made

DOI: doi:10.1038/s42003-021-01656-7


Sea turtle populations are under threat from an epizootic tumor disease (animal epidemic) known as fibropapillomatosis. Fibropapillomatosis continues to spread geographically, with prevalence of the disease also growing at many longer-affected sites globally. However, we do not yet understand the precise environmental, mutational and viral events driving fibropapillomatosis tumor formation and progression.

Here we perform transcriptomic and immunohistochemical profiling of five fibropapillomatosis tumor types: external new, established and postsurgical regrowth tumors, and internal lung and kidney tumors. We reveal that internal tumors are molecularly distinct from the more common external tumors. However, they have a small number of conserved potentially therapeutically targetable molecular vulnerabilities in common, such as the MAPK, Wnt, TGFβ and TNF oncogenic signaling pathways. These conserved oncogenic drivers recapitulate remarkably well the core pan-cancer drivers responsible for human cancers. Fibropapillomatosis has been considered benign, but metastatic-related transcriptional signatures are strongly activated in kidney and established external tumors. Tumors in turtles with poor outcomes (died/euthanized) have genes associated with apoptosis and immune function suppressed, with these genes providing putative predictive biomarkers.

Together, these results offer an improved understanding of fibropapillomatosis tumorigenesis and provide insights into the origins, inter-tumor relationships, and therapeutic treatment for this wildlife epizootic.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:sea turtle, fibropapilloma, transcriptomics
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Bioinformatics and computational biology
Research Field:Genomics and transcriptomics
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Blackburn, NB (Dr Nicholas Blackburn)
ID Code:145321
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:12
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2021-07-15
Last Modified:2022-12-06
Downloads:12 View Download Statistics

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