Intercellular transfer mediated by tunneling nanotubes

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2008 Aug;20(4):470-5. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 May 2.


Animal cells have evolved different mechanisms to communicate with one another. In 2004, a new route of cell-to-cell communication mediated by tunneling nanotubes (TNT) was reported. These membranous cell bridges form de novo between cells and mediate the intercellular transfer of organelles, plasma membrane components and cytoplasmic molecules. The characterization of TNT-like bridges from several cell types revealed variations in the cytoskeletal composition as well as in the modality by which they interconnect cells, suggesting that different subclasses may exist. Furthermore, the growing number of cell types for which TNT-like structures were detected, supports the view that they represent a general mechanism for functional connectivity between cells, which could have important implications under physiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nanotubes*