Cell shape and organelle modification in apoptotic U937 cells

Eur J Histochem. 2000;44(3):237-46.


U937 cells induced to apoptosis, progressively and dramatically modified their cell shape by intense blebbing formation, leading to the production of apoptotic bodies. The blebs evolved with time; milder forms of blebbing involving only a region or just the cortical part of the cytoplasm were observed within the first hour of incubation with puromycin; blebbing involving the whole cell body with very deep constrictions is the most frequent event observed during late times of incubation. The ultrastructural analysis of apoptotic cells revealed characteristic features of nuclear fragmentation (budding and cleavage mode) and cytoplasmatic modifications. The cytoplasm of blebs does not contain organelles, such as ribosomes or mitochondria. Scarce presence of endoplasmic reticulum can be observed at the site of bleb detachment. However, blebbing is a dispensable event as evaluated by using inhibitor of actin polymerization. In the present study, the progressive modifications of the nucleus, mitochondria, nuclear fragmentation, cytoplasmic blebs formation and production of apoptotic bodies in U937 monocytic cells induced to apoptosis by puromycin (an inhibitor of protein synthesis) were simultaneously analyzed.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Cell Size / physiology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Organelles / drug effects
  • Organelles / physiology*
  • Organelles / ultrastructure*
  • Puromycin / pharmacology
  • U937 Cells


  • Puromycin