Different types of cell-to-cell connections mediated by nanotubular structures

Peter Veranič, Maruša Lokar, Gerhard J. Schütz, Julian Weghuber, Stefan Wieser, Henry Hägerstrand, Veronika Kralj-Iglič, Aleš Iglič

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Communication between cells is crucial for proper functioning of multicellular organisms. The recently discovered membranous tubes, named tunneling nanotubes, that directly bridge neighboring cells may offer a very specific and effective way of intercellular communication. Our experiments on RT4 and T24 urothelial cell lines show that nanotubes that bridge neighboring cells can be divided into two types. The nanotubes of type I are shorter and more dynamic than those of type II, and they contain actin filaments. They are formed when cells explore their surroundings to make contact with another cell. The nanotubes of type II are longer and more stable than type I, and they have cytokeratin filaments. They are formed when two already connected cells start to move apart. On the nanotubes of both types, small vesicles were found as an integral part of the nanotubes (that is, dilatations of the nanotubes). The dilatations of type II nanotubes do not move along the nanotubes, whereas the nanotubes of type I frequently have dilatations (gondolas) that move along the nanotubes in both directions. A possible model of formation and mechanical stability of nanotubes that bridge two neighboring cells is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4416-4425
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


  • Animals
  • Biochemical Phenomena
  • Cattle
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Surface Extensions/metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells/cytology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
  • Models, Biological
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Urinary Bladder/cytology


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