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Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 3;6:27085. doi: 10.1038/srep27085.

Drosophila cells use nanotube-like structures to transfer dsRNA and RNAi machinery between cells.

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Institut Pasteur, Viruses and RNA interference, CNRS URM 3569, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université Paris VI, IFD, 4 Place Jussieu 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France.
Institut Pasteur, Imagopole, Citech, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.
Institut Pasteur, Platform of Ultra-structural microscopy, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.
Institut Pasteur, Membrane traffic and pathogenesis, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Tunnelling nanotubes and cytonemes function as highways for the transport of organelles, cytosolic and membrane-bound molecules, and pathogens between cells. During viral infection in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, a systemic RNAi antiviral response is established presumably through the transport of a silencing signal from one cell to another via an unknown mechanism. Because of their role in cell-cell communication, we investigated whether nanotube-like structures could be a mediator of the silencing signal. Here, we describe for the first time in the context of a viral infection the presence of nanotube-like structures in different Drosophila cell types. These tubules, made of actin and tubulin, were associated with components of the RNAi machinery, including Argonaute 2, double-stranded RNA, and CG4572. Moreover, they were more abundant during viral, but not bacterial, infection. Super resolution structured illumination microscopy showed that Argonaute 2 and tubulin reside inside the tubules. We propose that nanotube-like structures are one of the mechanisms by which Argonaute 2, as part of the antiviral RNAi machinery, is transported between infected and non-infected cells to trigger systemic antiviral immunity in Drosophila.

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