Intercellular nanotubes: insights from imaging studies and beyond

Authors

  • Johan Hurtig,

    1. Department of Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
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  • Daniel T. Chiu,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
    • Department of Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
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  • Björn Önfelt

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Microbiology Tumour and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Division of Cell Physics, Department of Applied Physics, Royal Institute of Technology, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
    • Department of Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
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Abstract

Cell-cell communication is critical to the development, maintenance, and function of multicellular organisms. Classical mechanisms for intercellular communication include secretion of molecules into the extracellular space and transport of small molecules through gap junctions. Recent reports suggest that cells also can communicate over long distances via a network of transient intercellular nanotubes. Such nanotubes have been shown to mediate intercellular transfer of organelles as well as membrane components and cytoplasmic molecules. Moreover, intercellular nanotubes have been observed in vivo and have been shown to enhance the transmission of pathogens such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 and prions in vitro. These studies indicate that intercellular nanotubes may play a role both in normal physiology and in disease. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2010 2 260–276

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