Bleb formation has been studied by specifically targeting major factors controlling this process, such as microtubule disassembly, local actin depolymerization, and increased pressure. At least two different types of blebs (types 1 and 2) formed by different mechanisms and possibly a third type (type 3) can be documented at the front of living polarized cells expressing green fluorescent protein-actin and/or in fixed and stained cells. Type 1 blebs (membrane/cortex dissociation blebs) formed by dissociation of the plasma membrane from cortical actin develop cytoplasmic actin layers associated with restriction rings. They can be induced by the microtubule-disassembling agent colchicine. Type 2 blebs (cortical actin disassembly blebs) form after disassembly of the cortical actin layer in the presence of latrunculin A. Restriction rings without a cytoplasmic actin layer occur in a transition zone between the intact cortical actin layer of the cell body and the compromised actin layer of the bleb. Evidence for a third type of bleb (type 3), showing an intact cortical actin layer but no cytoplasmic actin layer and no recognizable relationship between the actin cytoskeleton and the restriction ring, has been obtained by passive cell deformation in micropipettes, which increases pressure. Repolymerization of the cortical actin layer does not necessarily result in bleb retraction. Once formed, restriction rings do not narrow, suggesting that they result from isometric contraction. A simplified classification scheme has been developed to relate the type of bleb to specific signals or cell functions. Its application shows that spontaneously blebbing cells form almost exclusively type 1 blebs.
(c) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).