Journal article Open Access

Inception Mechanisms of Tunneling Nanotubes

Mitja Drab; David Stopar; Veronika Kralj-Iglič; Aleš Iglič

Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) are thin membranous tubes that interconnect cells, representing a novel route of cell-to-cell communication and spreading of pathogens. TNTs form between many cell types, yet their inception mechanisms remain elusive. We review in this study general concepts related to the formation and stability of membranous tubular structures with a focus on a deviatoric elasticity model of membrane nanodomains. We review experimental evidence that tubular structures initiate from local membrane bending facilitated by laterally distributed proteins or anisotropic membrane nanodomains. We further discuss the numerical results of several theoretical and simulation models of nanodomain segregation suggesting the mechanisms of TNT inception and stability. We discuss the coupling of nanodomain segregation with the action of protruding cytoskeletal forces, which are mostly provided in eukaryotic cells by the polymerization of f-actin, and review recent inception mechanisms of TNTs in relation to motor proteins

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