Caveolae, also termed plasmalemmal vesicles, are small, flask-shaped, non-clathrin-coated invaginations of the plasma membrane. Caveolin is a principal component of the filaments that make up the striated coat of caveolae. Using caveolin as a marker protein for the organelle, we found that adipose tissue is the single most abundant source of caveolae identified thus far. Caveolin mRNA and protein are strongly induced during differentiation of 3T3-L1 fibroblasts to adipocytes; during adipogenesis there is also a dramatic increase in the complexity of the protein composition of caveolin-rich membrane domains. About 10-15% of the insulin-responsive glucose transporter GLUT4 is found in this caveolin-rich fraction, and immuno-isolated vesicles containing GLUT4 also contain caveolin. However, in non-stimulated adipocytes the majority of caveolin fractionates with the plasma membrane, while most GLUT4 associates with low-density microsomes. Upon addition of insulin to 3T3-L1 adipocytes, there is a significant increase in the amount of GLUT4 associated with caveolin-rich membrane domains, an increase in the amount of caveolin associated with the plasma membrane, and a decrease in the amount of caveolin associated with low-density microsomes. Caveolin does not undergo a change in phosphorylation upon stimulation of 3T3-L1 adipocytes with insulin. However, after treatment with insulin it is associated with a 32-kD phosphorylated protein. Caveolae thus may play an important role in the vesicular transport of GLUT4 to or from the plasma membrane. 3T3-L1 adipocytes offer an attractive system to study the function of caveolae in several cellular trafficking and signaling events.

This content is only available as a PDF.