Membrane nanotubes physically connect T cells over long distances presenting a novel route for HIV-1 transmission

Stefanie Sowinski, Clare Jolly, Otto Berninghausen, Marco A. Purbhoo, Anne Chauveau, Karsten Köhler, Stephane Oddos, Philipp Eissmann, Frances M. Brodsky, Colin Hopkins, Björn Önfelt, Quentin Sattentau, Daniel M. Davis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Transmission of HIV-1 via intercellular connections has been estimated as 100-1000 times more efficient than a cell-free process, perhaps in part explaining persistent viral spread in the presence of neutralizing antibodies. Such effective intercellular transfer of HIV-1 could occur through virological synapses or target-cell filopodia connected to infected cells. Here we report that membrane nanotubes, formed when T cells make contact and subsequently part, provide a new route for HIV-1 transmission. Membrane nanotubes are known to connect various cell types, including neuronal and immune cells, and allow calcium-mediated signals to spread between connected myeloid cells. However, T-cell nanotubes are distinct from open-ended membranous tethers between other cell types, as a dynamic junction persists within T-cell nanotubes or at their contact with cell bodies. We also report that an extracellular matrix scaffold allows T-cell nanotubes to adopt variably shaped contours. HIV-1 transfers to uninfected T cells through nanotubes in a receptor-dependent manner. These data lead us to propose that HIV-1 can spread using nanotubular connections formed by short-term intercellular unions in which T cells specialize.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)211-219
    Number of pages8
    JournalNature Cell Biology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


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