In addition to pseudopods, somewhat pleomorphic blebs were consistently found protruding from the apical surfaces of hyperplastic rat thyroid epithelial cells into the follicular lumens in vivo. Many blebs were knobby, roughly hemispherical protrusions, with a diameter of 2-3 mum. Such blebs had a densely packed microfilamentous core and contained numerous apparent ribosomes. They were morphologically similar to blebs that have been observed in a variety of cultured cells. Other blebs were larger, more elongate, and less knobby, but had a similar ultrastructural organization. Blebs of all sizes appeared to be phagocytosed on some occasions by nearby epithelial cells. The phagocytic process involved partial engulfment of the bleb by a typical epithelial pseudopod, followed by an apparent pinching-off process, presumably resulting in the separation of the bleb from its cells or origin. The pinching-off process was associated with a band of approx. 6-nm diameter microfilaments that developed within the pseudopod cytoplasm surrounding the base of the bleb and is postulated to function as a contractile ring. The finding of blebbing is an intact tissue in vivo indicates that this phenomenon is not restricted to cultured cells, and thus tends to extend the significance of in vitro observations of the process. In relation to their occurrence in the hyperplastic thyroid gland in vivo, possible interconversions are considered between different types of blebs, and between blebs and pseudopods.

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