STKE: Nanotubular Communication

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Science  07 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5745, pp. 21b
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5745.21b

Cells often use diffusible molecules to communicate with one another, but results from Watkins and Salter show that some cells are hard-wired. They explored how human monocyte-derived dendritic cells respond to soluble factors released from Escherichia coli. When the supernatant of a bacterial culture was applied near a dendritic cell with a micropipette, the stimulus appeared to spread not by diffusion, but rather by passing from one cell to another. High-resolution differential interference contrast microscopy revealed intercellular tubular structures up to 100 μm in length and 20 to 200 nm in diameter. When cells were labeled with a calcium-sensitive dye, an increase in the concentration of free intracellular calcium caused by mechanical stimulation of one cell could be seen to pass via the nanotubules. Furthermore, THP-1 monocytes, which themselves did not respond to the supernatant, displayed calcium responses within seconds after nearby dendritic cells had been pulsed with the bacterial products. The authors propose that immune cells may use such communication to distribute intracellular signals across large networks of cells. — LBR

Immunity 23, 309 (2005).

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