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  • Review
  • Open Access

Mechanisms for the formation of membranous nanostructures in cell-to-cell communication

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  • 4Email author
Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal200914:18

  • Received: 16 August 2008
  • Accepted: 18 June 2009
  • Published:


Cells interact by exchanging material and information. Two methods of cell-to-cell communication are by means of microvesicles and by means of nanotubes. Both microvesicles and nanotubes derive from the cell membrane and are able to transport the contents of the inner solution. In this review, we describe two physical mechanisms involved in the formation of microvesicles and nanotubes: curvature-mediated lateral redistribution of membrane components with the formation of membrane nanodomains; and plasmamediated attractive forces between membranes. These mechanisms are clinically relevant since they can be affected by drugs. In particular, the underlying mechanism of heparin’s role as an anticoagulant and tumor suppressor is the suppression of microvesicluation due to plasma-mediated attractive interaction between membranes.

Key words

  • Membrane nanostructures
  • Cell-to-cell communication
  • Microvesicles
  • Nanotubes
  • Trousseau syndrome
  • Heparin