, Volume 352, Issue 1, pp 67-76

The molecular basis of induction and formation of tunneling nanotubes

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Abstract

Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) and associated structures are recently recognized structures for intercellular communication. They are F-actin-containing thin protrusions of the plasma membrane of a cell and allow a direct physical connection to the plasma membranes of remote cells. TNTs and associated structures serve as mediators for intercellular transfer of organelles as well as membrane components and cytoplasmic molecules. Moreover, several pathogens have been shown to exploit these structures to spread among cells. Because of their contribution to normal cellular functions and importance in pathological conditions, studies on TNTs and related structures have accelerated over the past few years. These studies have revealed key molecules for their induction and/or formation; HIV Nef and M-Sec can induce the formation of TNTs in coordination with the remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton and vesicle trafficking.