Tunneling Nanotubes

Membranous Channels between Animal Cells
  • Hans-Hermann Gerdes
  • Amin Rustom


I ntercellular communication is a major requirement for the development and maintainance of multicellular organisms. Diverse mechanisms for the exchange of signals between cells during evolution have been established. These mechanisms include intercellular membrane channels between plant cells, called plasmodesmata, and proteinaceous channels of animal cells, called gap junctions. Recently, highly sensitive nanotubular structures have been described which are formed de novo between animal cells resulting in the formation of complex cellular networks. These membrane channels mediate membrane continuity between connected cells and are referred to as tunneling nanotubes (TNTs). They have been shown to facilitate the intercellular transfer of organelles as well as, on a limited scale, of membrane components and cytoplasmic molecules. It has been proposed that TNTs represent a novel and general biological principle of cell interaction based on membrane continuity and the intercellular exchange of organelles. It is increasingly apparent that TNTs and TNT-related structures fulfill important functions in the physiological processes of multicellular organisms.


Cardiac Myocytes Endothelial Progenitor Cell Membrane Channel Membrane Tube Connected Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Landes Bioscience and Springer Science+Business Media 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedicine, Section for Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary Center of Neuroscience (IZN), Institute of NeurobiologyUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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