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Exp Cell Res. 2008 Dec 10;314(20):3669-83. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2008.08.022. Epub 2008 Sep 13.

Tunneling nanotube (TNT)-like structures facilitate a constitutive, actomyosin-dependent exchange of endocytic organelles between normal rat kidney cells.

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Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Jonas Lies vei 91, 5009 Bergen, Norway.


Tunneling nanotube (TNT)-like structures are intercellular membranous bridges that mediate the transfer of various cellular components including endocytic organelles. To gain further insight into the magnitude and mechanism of organelle transfer, we performed quantitative studies on the exchange of fluorescently labeled endocytic structures between normal rat kidney (NRK) cells. This revealed a linear increase in both the number of cells receiving organelles and the amount of transferred organelles per cell over time. The intercellular transfer of organelles was unidirectional, independent of extracellular diffusion, and sensitive to shearing force. In addition, during a block of endocytosis, a significant amount of transfer sustained. Fluorescence microscopy revealed TNT-like bridges between NRK cells containing F-actin but no microtubules. Depolymerization of F-actin led to the disappearance of TNT and a strong inhibition of organelle exchange. Partial ATP depletion did not affect the number of TNT but strongly reduced organelle transfer. Interestingly, the myosin II specific inhibitor S-(-)-blebbistatin strongly induced both organelle transfer and the number of TNT, while the general myosin inhibitor 2,3-butanedione monoxime induced the number of TNT but significantly inhibited transfer. Taken together, our data indicate a frequent and continuous exchange of endocytic organelles between cells via TNT by an actomyosin-dependent mechanism.

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