Kidney proximal tubule (PT) cells are specialized for the uptake and transport of ions, solutes, peptides, and proteins. These functions are often regulated by hormones that signal at the cell surface and are internalized by clathrin-mediated endocytosis. However, the caveolin/caveolae pathway has also been implicated in normal PT function, often based on data from isolated PTs or PT cells in culture. Although we reported previously that caveolae and caveolin 1 are not detectable in PTs in vivo, reports of caveolin expression and function in PT cells appear periodically in the literature. Therefore, we reexamined caveolin expression in PTs in vivo, in isolated "purified" PTs following collagenase digestion, and in cultured PT cells. Caveolin 1 and 2 protein, mRNA, or immunofluorescence was undetectable in PTs in vivo, but PT cell cultures expressed caveolin 1 and/or 2. Furthermore, caveolin 1 and 2 mRNAs were detected in isolated PTs along with the endothelial markers CD31 and ICAM1. In contrast, no caveolin or endothelial marker mRNAs were detectable in samples isolated from snap-frozen kidneys by laser cut microdissection, which eliminates contamination by other cell types. We conclude 1) caveolin 1 and 2 are not normally expressed by PT cells in situ, 2) caveolin expression is "activated" in cultured PT cells, 3) contamination with non-PT, caveolin-expressing cells is a potential source of caveolin 1 and 2 that must be taken into account when isolated PTs are used in studies to correlate expression of these proteins with PT function.