Membrane nanotubes are a recently discovered form of cellular protrusion between two or more cells whose functions include cell communication, environmental sampling, and protein transfer. Although clearly demonstrated in vitro, evidence of the existence of membrane nanotubes in mammalian tissues in vivo has until now been lacking. Confocal microscopy of whole-mount corneas from wild-type, enhanced GFP chimeric mice, and Cx3cr1(gfp) transgenic mice revealed long (> 300 mu m) and fine (< 0.8 mu m diameter) membrane nanotube-like structures on bone marrow-derived MHC class II+ cells in the corneal stroma, some of which formed distinct intercellular bridges between these putative dendritic cells. The frequency of these nanotubes was significantly increased in corneas subjected to trauma and LPS, which suggests that nanotubes have an important role in vivo in cell-cell communication between widely spaced dendritic cells during inflammation. Identification of these novel cellular processes in the mammalian cornea provides the first evidence of membrane nanotubes in vivo.
Chinnery, H. R., Pearlman, E., & Mcmenamin, P. (2008). Cutting Edge: Membrane Nanotubes in vivo: A Feature of MHC Class II + Cells in the Mouse Cornea. Journal of Immunology, 180(9), 5779-5783. https://doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.180.9.5779