Caveolae: One Function or Many?

Trends Cell Biol. 2016 Mar;26(3):177-189. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.10.010. Epub 2015 Dec 1.


Caveolae are small, bulb-shaped plasma membrane invaginations. Mutations that ablate caveolae lead to diverse phenotypes in mice and humans, making it challenging to uncover their molecular mechanisms. Caveolae have been described to function in endocytosis and transcytosis (a specialized form of endocytosis) and in maintaining membrane lipid composition, as well as acting as signaling platforms. New data also support a model in which the central function of caveolae could be related to the protection of cells from mechanical stress within the plasma membrane. We present evidence for these diverse roles and consider in vitro and in vivo experiments confirming a mechanoprotective role. We conclude by highlighting current gaps in our knowledge of how mechanical signals may be transduced by caveolae.

Keywords: caveolae; caveolin; cavin; endocytosis; mechanoprotection; transcytosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caveolae / physiology*
  • Caveolins / physiology
  • Endocytosis
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Protein Transport
  • Signal Transduction


  • Caveolins