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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Oct;9(10):796-809. doi: 10.1038/nrm2504. Epub 2008 Sep 11.

The cell biology of cell-in-cell structures.

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  • 1Cell Biology Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, New York 10065, USA.


For decades, authors have described unusual cell structures, referred to as cell-in-cell structures, in which whole cells are found in the cytoplasm of other cells. One well-characterized process that results in the transient appearance of such structures is the engulfment of apoptotic cells by phagocytosis. However, many other types of cell-in-cell structure have been described that involve viable non-apoptotic cells. Some of these structures seem to form by the invasion of one cell into another, rather than by engulfment. The mechanisms of cell-in-cell formation and the possible physiological roles of these processes will be discussed.

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