In blood vessels, endothelia are submitted to constant shear effects and are, under normal conditions, capable of responding to any variation in hemodynamic forces. Caveolae — 50- to 100-nm plasma membrane invaginations present at the surface of terminally differentiated cells and particularly enriched in ECs — are composed of a high sphingolipid and cholesterol content and the protein caveolin-1 (Cav-1). Previous studies have suggested that caveolae and endothelial Cav-1 may regulate the vascular response to altered shear stress. In this issue of the JCI, Yu et al. have examined the role of Cav-1/caveolae in the regulation of flow-induced alterations (i.e., mechanotransduction) in vessels from wild-type mice, Cav-1–deficient mice, and Cav-1–deficient mice re-expressing Cav-1 only in ECs. Their data suggest that caveolae/Cav-1 may act as sensors of altered shear stress and that they also organize the signaling response in stimulated ECs (see the related article beginning on page 1284).
Philippe G. Frank, Michael P. Lisanti