Caveolae are 50–100 nm invaginations found within the plasma membrane of cells. Caveolae are involved in many processes that are essential for homeostasis, most notably endocytosis, mechano-protection, and signal transduction. Within these invaginations, the most important proteins are caveolins, which in addition to participating in the aforementioned processes are structural proteins responsible for caveolae biogenesis. When caveolin is misregulated or mutated, many disease states can arise which include muscular dystrophy, cancers, and heart disease. Unlike most integral membrane proteins, caveolin does not have a transmembrane orientation; instead, it is postulated to adopt an unusual topography where both the N- and C-termini lie on the cytoplasmic side of the membrane, and the hydrophobic span adopts an intramembrane loop conformation. While knowledge concerning the biology of caveolin has progressed apace, fundamental structural information has proven more difficult to obtain. In this mini-review, we curate as well as critically assess the structural data that have been obtained on caveolins to date in order to build a robust and compelling model of the caveolin secondary structure.

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