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Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 129, Issue 5, pp 539–550

First Online: 02 April 2008Accepted: 05 March 2008DOI: 10.1007-s00418-008-0412-0

Cite this article as: Gurke, S., Barroso, J.F.V. & Gerdes, HH. Histochem Cell Biol 2008 129: 539. doi:10.1007-s00418-008-0412-0


The ability of cells to receive, process, and respond to information is essential for a variety of biological processes. This is true for the simplest single cell entity as it is for the highly specialized cells of multicellular organisms. In the latter, most cells do not exist as independent units, but are organized into specialized tissues. Within these functional assemblies, cells communicate with each other in different ways to coordinate physiological processes. Recently, a new type of cell-to-cell communication was discovered, based on de novo formation of membranous nanotubes between cells. These F-actin-rich structures, referred to as tunneling nanotubes TNT, were shown to mediate membrane continuity between connected cells and facilitate the intercellular transport of various cellular components. The subsequent identification of TNT-like structures in numerous cell types revealed some structural diversity. At the same time it emerged that the direct transfer of cargo between cells is a common functional property, suggesting a general role of TNT-like structures in selective, long-range cell-to-cell communication. Due to the growing number of documented thin and long cell protrusions in tissue implicated in cell-to-cell signaling, it is intriguing to speculate that TNT-like structures also exist in vivo and participate in important physiological processes.

KeywordsTunneling nanotube TNT Intercellular transfer Cytoneme Viral transmission AbbreviationsTNTTunneling nanotube


PC12Rat pheochromocytoma

NRKNormal rat kidney

DCDendritic cells

EPCEndothelial progenitor cells


EGFPEnhanced Green fluorescent protein

EGFP-fFarnesylation signal of c-Ha-Ras fused to the C-terminus of EGFP

GPI-GFPGlycosylphosphatidylinositol conjugated to GFP

MHCMajor histocompatibility complex

HIV-1Human immunodeficiency virus type 1

MLVMurine leukemia virus

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Autor: Steffen Gurke - João F. V. Barroso - Hans-Hermann Gerdes


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