Mitochondrial Transfer by Intercellular Nanotubes
Cell-to-cell communication is a critical requirement for the coordination of cell behavior in tissue homeostasis and the conservation of multicellular organisms. Among several types of intercellular communication, tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) were discovered no more than a decade ago but are now known to constitute intercellular bridges connecting distant cells. Over the last decade, research has shown TNTs to have structural and functional properties which vary across cell types. TNTs permit cell-to-cell communication on the basis of membrane continuity between connected cells and are capable of transferring various types of intracellular components including calcium ions, cytoplasmic molecules and different types of organelles. In this chapter, we will describe the different mechanisms of TNT formation, their heterogeneous composition and their functional roles in physiological and pathological processes. In this context, we also discuss the importance of mitochondria transfer from stem cells to recipient cells with nonfunctional mitochondria, which results in a significant improvement in aerobic respiration. The transfer of healthy mitochondria through TNTs may rescue damaged cells and thus constitute an alternative therapeutic approach for pathologies involving oxidative stress.
KeywordsTunneling nanotubes Intercellular transfer Mitochondria Mitochondrial transfer Intercellular communication
The authors would like to thank Dr. N. Villalba, Dr. L. Fiore, Dr. R.J. Gelpi, Dr. A. Boveris and Dr. J.J. Poderoso for authorizing the use of photomicrographs obtained in ongoing collaborative work.
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