Specialized Intercellular Communications via Tunnelling Nanotubes in Acute and Chronic Leukemia

Cancers (Basel). 2022 Jan 28;14(3):659. doi: 10.3390/cancers14030659.


Effectual cell-to-cell communication is essential to the development and differentiation of organisms, the preservation of tissue tasks, and the synchronization of their different physiological actions, but also to the proliferation and metastasis of tumor cells. Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) are membrane-enclosed tubular connections between cells that carry a multiplicity of cellular loads, such as exosomes, non-coding RNAs, mitochondria, and proteins, and they have been identified as the main participants in healthy and tumoral cell communication. TNTs have been described in numerous tumors in in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo models favoring the onset and progression of tumors. Tumor cells utilize TNT-like membranous channels to transfer information between themselves or with the tumoral milieu. As a result, tumor cells attain novel capabilities, such as the increased capacity of metastasis, metabolic plasticity, angiogenic aptitude, and chemoresistance, promoting tumor severity. Here, we review the morphological and operational characteristics of TNTs and their influence on hematologic malignancies' progression and resistance to therapies, focusing on acute and chronic myeloid and acute lymphoid leukemia. Finally, we examine the prospects and challenges for TNTs as a therapeutic approach for hematologic diseases by examining the development of efficient and safe drugs targeting TNTs.

Keywords: cancer; cell communication; chemoresistance; hematologic malignancies; leukemia; miRNAs; mitochondrial transfer; multiple myeloma; tunneling nanotubes.

Publication types

  • Review