Editors' ChoiceCELLULAR CONNECTIONS

Intercellular Communication Route?

STKE  17 Feb 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 220, pp. tw63-TW63
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2202004TW63

Mammalian cells interact with one another in a variety of ways, for example, by secreting and binding diffusible messengers like hormones and growth factors, or between attached cells via gap junctions. Rustom et al. now describe what may represent an independent form of cell-cell communication that they term tunneling nanotubes. In cell cultures from a variety of cell types, they observed the formation of thin tubules connecting cells. These fragile, actin-rich structures were observed to transport membrane components from one cell to another in a unidirectional fashion. The tubules allowed the passage of vesicles of endocytic origin but excluded other organelles like mitochondria and also did not appear to allow significant transfer of cytosolic proteins.

A. Rustom, R. Saffrich, I. Markovic, P. Walther, H.-H. Gerdes, Nanotubular highways for intercellular organelle transport. Science 303, 1007-1010 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]