A comparison of caveolae and caveolin-1 to folate receptor alpha in retina and retinal pigment epithelium

Histochem J. 2001 Mar;33(3):149-58. doi: 10.1023/a:1017991925821.


Caveolae are flask-shaped membrane invaginations present in most mammalian cells. They are distinguished by the presence of a striated coat composed of the protein, caveolin. Caveolae have been implicated in numerous cellular processes, including potocytosis in which caveolae are hypothesized to co-localize with folate receptor alpha and participate in folate uptake. Our laboratory has recently localized folate receptor alpha to the basolateral surface of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). It is present also in many other cells of the retina. In the present study, we asked whether caveolae were present in the RPE, and if so, whether their pattern of distribution was similar to folate receptor alpha. We also examined the distribution pattern of caveolin-1, which can be a marker of caveolae. Extensive electron microscopical analysis revealed caveolae associated with endothelial cells. However, none were detected in intact or cultured RPE. Laser scanning confocal microscopical analysis of intact RPE localized caveolin-1 to the apical and basal surfaces, a distribution unlike folate receptor alpha. Western analysis confirmed the presence of caveolin-1 in cultured RPE cells and laser scanning confocal microscopy localized the protein to the basal plasma membrane of the RPE, a distribution like that of folate receptor alpha. This distribution was confirmed by electron microscopic immunolocalization. The lack of caveolae in the RPE suggests that these structures may not be essential for folate internalization in the RPE.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Caveolae / ultrastructure*
  • Caveolin 1
  • Caveolins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Culture Techniques
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored
  • Folic Acid / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / ultrastructure*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface*
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retina / ultrastructure*


  • CAV1 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cav1 protein, mouse
  • Caveolin 1
  • Caveolins
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Folic Acid