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Cellular and Molecular Biology Letters

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

1Laboratory of Clinical Biophysics, Institute of Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Lipičeva 2, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

2University Medical Centre Ljubljana, Zaloška 9, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

3Faculty of Health Studies, University of Ljubljana, Poljanska 26a, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

4Laboratory of Physics, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Tržaška 25, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

5Institute of Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Lipičeva 2, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

© 2009 University of Wrocław, Poland. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Citation Information: Cellular and Molecular Biology Letters. Volume 14, Issue 4, Pages 636–656, ISSN (Online) 1689-1392, DOI: 10.2478/s11658-009-0018-0, September 2009

Publication History

Published Online:


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.

Keywords: Membrane nanostructures; Cell-to-cell communication; Microvesicles; Nanotubes; Trousseau syndrome; Heparin

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