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Commun Integr Biol. 2014 Jan 1;7(1):e27934. doi: 10.4161/cib.27934. Epub 2014 Feb 6.

Tunneling nanotubes: Diversity in morphology and structure.

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Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.


Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) are recently discovered thin membranous tubes that interconnect cells. During the last decade, research has shown TNTs to be diverse in morphology and composition, varying between and within cell systems. In addition, the discovery of TNT-like extracellular protrusions, as well as observations of TNTs in vivo, has further enriched our knowledge on the diversity of TNT-like structures. Considering the complex molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of TNTs, as well as their different functions in intercellular communication, it is important to decipher how heterogeneity of TNTs is established, and to address what roles the compositional elements have in the execution of various functions. Here, we review the current knowledge on the morphological and structural diversity of TNTs, and address the relation between the formation, the structure, and the function of TNTs.


TNT; cytoskeleton; extracellular protrusions; intercellular communication; tunneling nanotube

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