Macrophage conditioned medium induced cellular network formation in MCF-7 cells through enhanced tunneling nanotube formation and tunneling nanotube mediated release of viable cytoplasmic fragments

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Infiltrating macrophages in tumor microenvironment, through their secreted cytokines and growth factors, regulate several processes of cancer progression such as cancer cell survival, proliferation, invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. Recently, intercellular cytoplasmic bridges between cancer cells referred as tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) have been recognized as novel mode of intercellular communication between cancer cells. In this study, we investigated the effect of inflammatory mediators present in conditioned medium derived from macrophages on the formation of TNTs in breast adenocarcinoma cells MCF-7. Results show that treatment with macrophage conditioned medium (MΦCM) not only enhanced TNT formation between cells but also stimulated the release of independently migrating viable cytoplasmic fragments, referred to as microplasts, from MCF-7 cells. Time lapse microscopy revealed that microplasts were released from parent cancer cells in extracellular space through formation of TNT-like structures. Mitochondria, vesicles and cytoplasm could be transferred from parent cell body to microplasts through connecting TNTs. The microplasts could also be resorbed into the parent cell body by retraction of the connecting TNTs. Microplast formation inhibited in presence cell migration inhibitor, cytochalasin-B. Notably by utilizing migratory machinery within microplasts, distantly located MCF-7 cells formed several TNT based intercellular connections, leading to formation of physically connected network of cells. Together, these results demonstrate novel role of TNTs in microplast formation, novel modes of TNT formation mediated by microplasts and stimulatory effect of MΦCM on cellular network formation in MCF-7 cells mediated through enhanced TNT and microplast formation.

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