Many different theories of ageing have been proposed but none has served the unifying purpose of defining a molecular target that can limit the structural and functional decline associated with age that ultimately leads to the demise of the organism. We propose that the search for a molecule with these unique properties must account for regulation of the signalling efficiency of multiple cellular functions that degrade with age due to a loss of a particular protein. We suggest caveolin as one such molecule that serves as a regulator of key processes in signal transduction. We define a particular distinction between cellular senescence and ageing and propose that caveolin plays a distinct role in each of these processes. Caveolin is traditionally thought of as a membrane-localized protein regulating signal transduction via membrane enrichment of specific signalling molecules. Ultimately we focus on two non-canonical roles for caveolin - membrane repair and regulation of mitochondrial function - which may be novel features of stress adaptation, especially in the setting of ageing. The end result of preserving membrane structure and mitochondrial function is maintenance of homeostatic signalling, preserving barrier function, and regulating energy production for cell survival and resilient ageing.
© 2015 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2015 The Physiological Society.