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Cell Death Differ. 2011 Apr;18(4):732-42. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2010.147. Epub 2010 Nov 26.

Tunneling-nanotube development in astrocytes depends on p53 activation.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology and State Key Laboratory of Biomembrane and Membrane Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China.


Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) can be induced in rat hippocampal astrocytes and neurons with H(2)O(2) or serum depletion. Major cytoskeletal component of TNTs is F-actin. TNTs transfer endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, Golgi, endosome and intracellular as well as extracellular amyloid β. TNT development is a property of cells under stress. When two populations of cells are co-cultured, it is the stressed cells that always develop TNTs toward the unstressed cells. p53 is crucial for TNT development. When p53 function is deleted by either dominant negative construct or siRNAs, TNT development is inhibited. In addition, we find that among the genes activated by p53, epidermal growth factor receptor is also important to TNT development. Akt, phosphoinositide 3-kinase and mTOR are involved in TNT induction. Our data suggest that TNTs might be a mechanism for cells to respond to harmful signals and transfer cellular substances or energy to another cell under stress.

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