Although caveolin-1 provides a useful marker for the pathway, the protein was not important for endocytosis. Nichols found that caveolin-1 was sorted away from Golgi-bound vesicles, and diminished caveolin-1 levels did not inhibit clathrin-independent endocytosis. Caveolin-1–containing endosomes have previously been shown to transport SV40 virus to the ER. Nichols believes these may be the same organelles, although this is not yet proven.
The function of the clathrin-independent pathway will be better understood when specific inhibitors can be identified. For now, Nichols hypothesizes that clathrin-independent endocytosis is important for delivery of certain plasma membrane lipids to the trans face of the Golgi, the site of lipid raft formation and Golgi cargo sorting. ▪