Membrane blebbing during apoptosis results from caspase-mediated activation of ROCK I

M L Coleman, E A Sahai, M Yeo, M Bosch, A Dewar, M F Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

900 Citations (Scopus)


The execution phase of apoptosis is characterized by marked changes in cell morphology that include contraction and membrane blebbing. The actin-myosin system has been proposed to be the source of contractile force that drives bleb formation, although the biochemical pathway that promotes actin-myosin contractility during apoptosis has not been identified. Here we show that the Rho effector protein ROCK I, which contributes to phosphorylation of myosin light-chains, myosin ATPase activity and coupling of actin-myosin filaments to the plasma membrane, is cleaved during apoptosis to generate a truncated active form. The activity of ROCK proteins is both necessary and sufficient for formation of membrane blebs and for re-localization of fragmented DNA into blebs and apoptotic bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-45
Number of pages7
JournalNature Cell Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2001


  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases
  • Cell Membrane
  • DNA
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Mice
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • rho-Associated Kinases


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