Insight into the regulation of complex physiological systems emerges from understanding how biological units communicate with each other. Recent findings show that mitochondria communicate at a distance with each other via nanotunnels, thin double-membrane protrusions that connect the matrices of non-adjacent mitochondria. Emerging evidence suggest that mitochondrial nanotunnels are generated by immobilized mitochondria and transport proteins. This review integrates data from the evolutionarily conserved structure and function of intercellular projections in bacteria with recent developments in mitochondrial imaging that permit nanotunnel visualization in eukaryotes. Cell type-specificity, timescales, and the selective size-based diffusion of biomolecules along nanotunnels are also discussed. The joining of individual mitochondria into dynamic networks of communicating organelles via nanotunnels and other mechanisms has major implications for organelle and cellular behaviors.
Keywords: communication; membrane dynamics; mitochondrion; nanotunnel; signaling.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.