Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 352, Issue 1, pp 67–76 | Cite as

The molecular basis of induction and formation of tunneling nanotubes



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.


Tunneling nanotubes M-Sec/TNFaip2/B94 Rho small GTPase family Exocyst complex HIV Nef 

Supplementary material

441_2012_1518_MOESM1_ESM.mov (260 kb)
Supplemental video 1Time-lapse video microscopy of GFP-M-Sec-transfected HeLa cells. (MOV 259 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Histology and Cytology, Graduate School of MedicineHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Laboratory for Epithelial ImmunobiologyResearch Center for Allergy and Immunology, RIKENYokohamaJapan
  3. 3.Laboratory for Mucosal Barriology, International R&D Center for MucoVac, The Institute for Medical SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  4. 4.Laboratory for Bioenvironmental EpigeneticsResearch Center for Allergy and Immunology, RIKENYokohamaJapan
  5. 5.PRESTO, Japan Science and Technology AgencyTokyoJapan
  6. 6.Division of Immunobiology, Department of Supramolecular Biology, Graduate School of NanobioscienceYokohama City UniversityYokohamaJapan

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