Measurements of lateral molecular diffusion on blebs formed on the surfaces of isolated muscle cells and myoblasts are reported. These blebbed membranes retain integral proteins but apparently separate from the detectable cytoskeleton. On blebs, acetylcholine receptors, concanavalin A receptors, and stearoyldextran extrinsic model receptor molecules are free to diffuse with a diffusion coefficient (D) approximately 3 x 10(-9) cm2/s, which is close to the value predicted for hydrodynamic drag in the lipid membrane. In contrast, diffusion of these typical receptors in intact cell membranes is constrained to D approximately less than 10(-10) cm2/s with substantial fractions virtually nondiffusible (D less than 10(-12) cm2/s). Lipid analog diffusion is also slightly enhanced in blebs as expected of evanescent lipid protein interaction. This strong enhancement of membrane protein diffusion is attributed to release from unidentified natural constraints that is induced in some way by detachment of the bleb membrane.

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