Caveolins and cavins in the trafficking, maturation, and degradation of caveolae: implications for cell physiology

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2017 Apr 1;312(4):C459-C477. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00355.2016. Epub 2017 Jan 25.


Caveolins (Cavs) are ~20 kDa scaffolding proteins that assemble as oligomeric complexes in lipid raft domains to form caveolae, flask-shaped plasma membrane (PM) invaginations. Caveolae ("little caves") require lipid-lipid, protein-lipid, and protein-protein interactions that can modulate the localization, conformational stability, ligand affinity, effector specificity, and other functions of proteins that are partners of Cavs. Cavs are assembled into small oligomers in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), transported to the Golgi for assembly with cholesterol and other oligomers, and then exported to the PM as an intact coat complex. At the PM, cavins, ~50 kDa adapter proteins, oligomerize into an outer coat complex that remodels the membrane into caveolae. The structure of caveolae protects their contents (i.e., lipids and proteins) from degradation. Cellular changes, including signal transduction effects, can destabilize caveolae and produce cavin dissociation, restructuring of Cav oligomers, ubiquitination, internalization, and degradation. In this review, we provide a perspective of the life cycle (biogenesis, degradation), composition, and physiologic roles of Cavs and caveolae and identify unanswered questions regarding the roles of Cavs and cavins in caveolae and in regulating cell physiology.1.

Keywords: caveolae; caveolin; cavin; lipid raft.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caveolae / physiology*
  • Caveolins / metabolism*
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Caveolins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins