Bleb (cell biology)

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In cell biology, a bleb is a bulge, or protrusion of the plasma membrane of a cell, human bioparticulate or abscess with an internal environment similar to that of a simple cell, characterized by a spherical, bulky morphology.[1][1] It is characterized by the decoupling of the cytoskeleton from the plasma membrane, degrading the internal structure of the cell, allowing the flexibility required to allow the cell to separate into individual bulges, or pockets of the intercellular matrix.[1] Most commonly, blebs are seen in apoptosis (programmed cell death), but are also seen in other non-apoptotic functions. Blebbing or zeiosis is the formation of blebs.

The process of apoptosis, with blebbing shown in the middle illustration


Bleb growth is driven by intracellular pressure generated in the cytoplasm when the actin cortex undergoes actomyosin contractions,[2] leading to the eventual break up into billions of bits because the pressure is inane to the exterior surface of the growth anatomical presence. The disruption of the membrane-actin cortex interactions[1] are dependent on the activity of myosin-ATPase[3]

Bleb formation can be initiated in two ways: 1) through local rupture of the cortex or 2) through local detachment of the cortex from the plasma membrane.[4] This generates a weak spot through which the cytoplasm flows, leading to the expansion of the bulge of membrane by increasing the surface area through tearing of the membrane from the cortex, during which time, actin levels decrease.[2] The cytoplasmic flow is driven by hydrostatic pressure inside the cell.[5][6]

Physiological function[edit]

Apoptotic function[edit]

Blebbing is one of the defined features of apoptosis.[3] During apoptosis (programmed cell death), the cell's cytoskeleton breaks up and causes the membrane to bulge outward.[7] These bulges may separate from the cell, taking a portion of cytoplasm with them, to become known as apoptotic bodies. Phagocytic cells eventually consume these fragments and the components are recycled.

Nonapoptotic functions[edit]

Blebbing also has important functions in other cellular processes, including cell locomotion, cell division, and physical or chemical stresses. Blebs have been seen in cultured cells in certain stages of the cell cycle. These blebs are used for cell locomotion in embryogenesis.[8] The types of blebs vary greatly, including variations in bleb growth rates, size, contents, and actin content. It also plays an important role in all five varieties of necrosis, a generally detrimental process. However, cell organelles do not spread into necrotic blebs.


  1. ^ a b c d Fackler OT, Grosse R (Jun 2008). "Cell motility through plasma membrane blebbing". J Cell Biol. 181 (6): 879–84. doi:10.1083/jcb.200802081. PMC 2426937. PMID 18541702. 
  2. ^ a b Charras, G. T. (January 8, 2008). "A short history of blebbing". Journal of Microscopy 231 (3): 466 Extra |pages= or |at= (help). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2818.2008.02059.x. PMID 18755002. 
  3. ^ a b Wickman, G. R.; Julian, L.; Mardilovich, K.; Schumacher, S.; Munro, J.; Rath, N.; Zander, S. Al; Mleczak, A.; Sumpton, D. (2013-10-01). "Blebs produced by actin–myosin contraction during apoptosis release damage-associated molecular pattern proteins before secondary necrosis occurs". Cell Death & Differentiation 20 (10): 1293–1305. doi:10.1038/cdd.2013.69. ISSN 1350-9047. PMC 3770329. PMID 23787996. 
  4. ^ Charras, G; Paluch, E (Sep 2008). "Blebs lead the way: how to migrate without lamellipodia.". Nature reviews. Molecular cell biology 9 (9): 730–6. doi:10.1038/nrm2453. PMID 18628785. 
  5. ^ Charras, GT; Yarrow, JC; Horton, MA; Mahadevan, L; Mitchison, TJ (May 19, 2005). "Non-equilibration of hydrostatic pressure in blebbing cells.". Nature 435 (7040): 365–9. Bibcode:2005Natur.435..365C. doi:10.1038/nature03550. PMID 15902261. 
  6. ^ Tinevez, JY; Schulze, U; Salbreux, G; Roensch, J; Joanny, JF; Paluch, E (Nov 3, 2009). "Role of cortical tension in bleb growth.". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106 (44): 18581–6. Bibcode:2009PNAS..10618581T. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903353106. PMID 19846787. 
  7. ^ Vermeulen K, Van Bockstaele DR, Berneman ZN (Oct 2005). "Apoptosis: mechanisms and relevance in cancer". Ann Hematol. 84 (10): 627–39. doi:10.1007/s00277-005-1065-x. PMID 16041532. 
  8. ^ Barros, L. F.; Kanaseki, T.; Sabirov, R.; Morishima, S.; Castro, J.; Bittner, C. X.; Maeno, E.; Ando-Akatsuka, Y.; Okada, Y. (2003-01-01). "Apoptotic and necrotic blebs in epithelial cells display similar neck diameters but different kinase dependency". Cell Death & Differentiation 10 (6): 687–697. doi:10.1038/sj.cdd.4401236. ISSN 1350-9047. 


External links[edit]

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