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Highly Accessed Open Badges Protein family review

The caveolin proteins

Terence M Williams12 and Michael P Lisanti12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA

2 The Albert Einstein Cancer Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA

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Genome Biology 2004, 5:214  doi:

Published: 1 March 2004


The caveolin gene family has three members in vertebrates: caveolin-1, caveolin-2, and caveolin-3. So far, most caveolin-related research has been conducted in mammals, but the proteins have also been found in other animals, including Xenopus laevis, Fugu rubripes, and Caenorhabditis elegans. Caveolins can serve as protein markers of caveolae ('little caves'), invaginations in the plasma membrane 50-100 nanometers in diameter. Caveolins are found predominantly at the plasma membrane but also in the Golgi, the endoplasmic reticulum, in vesicles, and at cytosolic locations. They are expressed ubiquitously in mammals, but their expression levels vary considerably between tissues. The highest levels of caveolin-1 (also called caveolin, Cav-1 and VIP2I) are found in terminally-differentiated cell types, such as adipocytes, endothelia, smooth muscle cells, and type I pneumocytes. Caveolin-2 (Cav-2) is colocalized and coexpressed with Cav-1 and requires Cav-1 for proper membrane targeting; the Cav-2 gene also maps to the same chromosomal region as Cav-1 (7q31.1 in humans). Caveolin-3 (Cav-3) has greater protein-sequence similarity to Cav-1 than to Cav-2, but it is expressed mainly in muscle cells, including smooth, skeletal, and cardiac myocytes. Caveolins participate in many important cellular processes, including vesicular transport, cholesterol homeostasis, signal transduction, and tumor suppression.