The flexibility and self-healing properties of animal cell surface membranes are well known. These properties have been best exploited in various micrurgical studies on living cells (2, 3), especially in amoebae (7, 20). During nuclear transplantation in amoebae, the hole in the membrane through which a nucleus passes can have a diameter of 20-30 μm, and yet such holes are quickly sealed, although some cytoplasm usually escapes during the transfer.
While enucleating amoebae in previous studies, we found that if a very small portion of a nucleus was pushed through the membrane and exposed to the external medium, the amoeba expelled such a nucleus on its own accord. When this happened, a new membrane appeared to form around the embedded portion of the nucleus and no visible loss of cytoplasm occurred during nuclear extrusion.
In the present study, we examined amoebae that were at different stages of expelling partially exposed nuclei, to follow the sequence of events during the apparent new membrane formation. Unexpectedly, we found that a new membrane is not formed around the nucleus from inside but a hole is sealed primarily by a constriction of the existing membrane, and that cytoplasmic filaments are responsible for the prevention of the loss of cytoplasm.