Cellular and evolutionary biology of transmissible cancer of the blue mussel


I-site MUSE (2018-2021)
Project leader: Guillaume Charrière and Nicolas Bierne (ISEM)
Cancer is usually an evolutionary dead end: a selfish cell line appears and thrives at the expense of the multicellular host from which it derives, causing the death of its host as well as its own. In recent years, transmissible cancers have been described in different animal species. Thus, cancer cell lines have managed to escape this evolutionary impasse by having acquired the ability to be transmitted between individuals. These cancerous lines have become true independent pathogens, perpetuating the cancer process for much longer times than the life of their original host. Transmissible cancers are considered very rare in vertebrates where only two examples are known to date (in dogs and Tasmanian devils). Recent work indicates that transmissible cancers may be more common in invertebrates, particularly bivalve molluscs. We still know almost nothing about these transmissible cancers that have been ignored for so long: How and why do they emerge ? At what pace ? How long do they evolve ? What are their ecological and evolutionary consequences on natural populations ? These still unknown cancers raise many fundamental questions about the biology of cancers and their interactions with their hosts. The BLUECANCER project, led by a multi-disciplinary Montpellier team combining skills in cell biology, immunology and evolutionary genomics, focuses on the recently discovered study of transmissible cancer in the three species of blue mussel (Mytilus spp.). The objectives are (i) to study the invasive properties of cancer cells and the response of invaded hosts, (ii) to infer the evolutionary history of transmissible cancer by the analysis of genomic sequences of tumors and their hosts, ( iii) to develop, in collaboration with ADNid, a simple method for detecting the presence of cancer in cultivated areas; (iv) to assess the risks of socio-economic impacts of this newly discovered cancer disease in collaboration with the CEE-M, CEPRALMAR and Eureka modeling.


© G. Charrière
Partner 1 – UMR 5244 IHPE: Guillaume Charrière, Delphine Destoumieux
Partner 2 – UMR 5554 ISEM: Nicolas Bierne
Partner 3 – ADNid, groupe Qualtech: Fabienne Moreaux
Partner 4 – UMR 5474 CEE-M
: Hélène Rey-Valette
Partner 5 – CEPRALMAR: Loic Linares
Partner 6 – Eureka Modelisation: Ismael Bernard