In order to achieve accurate chromosome segregation, eukaryotic cells undergo a dramatic change in morphology to obtain a spherical shape during mitosis. Interphase cells communicate directly with each other by exchanging ions and small molecules via gap junctions, which have important roles in controlling cell growth and differentiation. As cells round up during mitosis, the gap junctional communication between mitotic cells and adjacent interphase cells ceases. Whether mitotic cells use alternative mechanisms for mediating direct cell-cell communication during rounding is currently unknown. Here, we have studied the mechanisms involved in the remodeling of gap junctions during mitosis. We further demonstrate that mitotic cells are able to form actin-based plasma membrane bridges with adjacent cells during rounding. These structures, termed "mitotic nanotubes," were found to be involved in mediating the transport of cytoplasm, including Rab11-positive vesicles, between mitotic cells and adjacent cells. Moreover, a subpool of the gap-junction channel protein connexin43 localized in these intercellular bridges during mitosis. Collectively, the data provide new insights into the mechanisms involved in the remodeling of gap junctions during mitosis and identify actin-based plasma membrane bridges as a novel means of communication between mitotic cells and adjacent cells during rounding.
Keywords: actin; cell junctions; connexin; gap junction; mitosis; tunneling nanotubes.