Blebbing, while fun to say, is also a defining feature of apoptosis (programmed cell death). A bleb is more or less what it sounds like, a blob-like protrusion of the plasma membrane. They generally exist for only a short time, on the scale of tens of seconds to a couple minutes. The phenomenon is caused during apoptosis as the cell’s cortex, which plays a crucial role in maintaining cell shape, ruptures, or detaches from the plasma membrane, allowing it to bulge outwards. From there, the bulges can either separate from the cell, becoming apoptotic bodies, or be reabsorbed by recontracting the bleb back into the cell.
Using the 3D Cell Explorer, we watched as melanoma cells underwent apoptosis and displayed this characteristic blebbing. Check out our video to watch the action: