Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 33646572
Link to DOI – 10.15252/embj.2020105789
EMBO J 2021 Mar; (): e105789
The identification of Tunneling Nanotubes (TNTs) and TNT-like structures signified a critical turning point in the field of cell-cell communication. With hypothesized roles in development and disease progression, TNTs’ ability to transport biological cargo between distant cells has elevated these structures to a unique and privileged position among other mechanisms of intercellular communication. However, the field faces numerous challenges-some of the most pressing issues being the demonstration of TNTs in vivo and understanding how they form and function. Another stumbling block is represented by the vast disparity in structures classified as TNTs. In order to address this ambiguity, we propose a clear nomenclature and provide a comprehensive overview of the existing knowledge concerning TNTs. We also discuss their structure, formation-related pathways, biological function, as well as their proposed role in disease. Furthermore, we pinpoint gaps and dichotomies found across the field and highlight unexplored research avenues. Lastly, we review the methods employed to date and suggest the application of new technologies to better understand these elusive biological structures.