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Science 303 (5660): 1007-1010

Copyright © 2004 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Nanotubular Highways for Intercellular Organelle Transport

Amin Rustom,1 Rainer Saffrich,2 Ivanka Markovic,3 Paul Walther,4 Hans-Hermann Gerdes1,5*

Abstract: Cell-to-cell communication is a crucial prerequisite for the development and maintenance of multicellular organisms. To date, diverse mechanisms of intercellular exchange of information have been documented, including chemical synapses, gap junctions, and plasmodesmata. Here, we describe highly sensitive nanotubular structures formed de novo between cells that create complex networks. These structures facilitate the selective transfer of membrane vesicles and organelles but seem to impede the flow of small molecules. Accordingly, we propose a novel biological principle of cell-to-cell interaction based on membrane continuity and intercellular transfer of organelles.

1 Interdisciplinary Center of Neuroscience (IZN), Institute of Neurobiology, University of Heidelberg, INF 364, Heidelberg 69120, Germany.
2 Otto-Meyerhoff-Zentrum, University of Heidelberg, INF 350, Heidelberg 69120, Germany.
3 Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Pasterova 2, Belgrade 11000, Yugoslavia.
4 Electron Microscopy Facility, University of Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, 89069 Ulm, Germany.
5 Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Bergen, Jonas Lies vei 91, Bergen 5009, Norway.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Hans-Hermann.Gerdes{at}

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