• Open Access

Caveolae and calcium handling, a review and a hypothesis



Caveolae are associated with molecules crucial for calcium handling. This review considers the roles of caveolae in calcium handling for smooth muscle and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). Structural studies showed that the plasma membrane calcium pump (PMCA), a sodium-calcium exchanger (NCX1), and a myogenic nNOS appear to be colocalized with caveolin I, the main constituent of these caveolae. Voltage dependent calcium channels (VDCC) are associated but not co-localized with caveolin 1, as are proteins of the peripheral sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) such as calreticulin. Only the nNOS is absent from caveolin 1 knockout animals. Functional studies in calcium free media sugest that a source of calcium in tonic smooth muscles exists, partly sequestered from extracellular EGTA. This source supported sustained contractions to carbachol using VDCC and dependent on activity of the SERCA pump. This source is postulated to be caveolae, near peripheral SR. New evidence, presented here, suggests that a similar source exists in phasic smooth muscle of the intestine and its ICC. These results suggest that caveolae and peripheral SR are a functional unit recycling calcium through VDCC and controlling its local concentration. Calcium handling molecules associated with caveolae in smooth muscle and ICC were identified and their possible functions also reviewed.