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Cell Death Dis. 2013 Jul 18;4:e726. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2013.245.

H-Ras transfers from B to T cells via tunneling nanotubes.

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Department of Neurobiology, The George S Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.


Lymphocytes form cell-cell connections by various mechanisms, including intercellular networks through actin-supported long-range plasma membrane (PM) extensions, termed tunneling nanotubes (TNTs). In this study, we tested in vitro whether TNTs form between human antigen-presenting B cells and T cells following cell contact and whether they enable the transfer of PM-associated proteins, such as green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged H-Ras (GFP-H-Ras). To address this question, we employed advanced techniques, including cell trapping by optical tweezers and live-cell imaging by 4D spinning-disk confocal microscopy. First, we showed that TNTs can form after optically trapped conjugated B and T cells are being pulled apart. Next, we determined by measuring fluorescence recovery after photobleaching that GFP-H-Ras diffuses freely in the membrane of TNTs that form spontaneously between B and T cells during coculturing. Importantly, by 4D time-lapse imaging, we showed that GFP-H-Ras-enriched PM patches accumulate at the junction between TNTs and the T-cell body and subsequently transfer to the T-cell surface. Furthermore, the PM patches adopted by T cells were enriched for another B-cell-derived transmembrane receptor, CD86. As predicted, the capacity of GFP-H-Ras to transfer between B and T cells, during coculturing, was dependent on its normal post-transcriptional lipidation and consequent PM anchorage. In summary, our data indicate that TNTs connecting B and T cells provide a hitherto undescribed route for the transfer of PM patches containing, for example, H-Ras from B to T cells.

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