Caveolae are ∼50-100 nm invaginations of the plasma membrane thought to form as a result of a local accumulation of cholesterol, sphingolipids, and a unique family of three proteins known as the caveolins: Cav-1, -2, and -3. Here, we report the identification, sequence, and developmental expression of the three caveolin genes in the amphibian Xenopus laevis. Sequence comparisons show that Xenopus Cav-1, -2, and -3 are ∼80, 64, and 45% identical, respectively, to their counterparts in humans. Furthermore, Northern blotting experiments demonstrate that the Xenopus caveolins have tissue-specific expression profiles consistent with those previously reported in adult mammals. In the adult frog, Xenopus Cav-1 and Cav-2 are most abundantly expressed in the fat body and the lungs, while Xenopus Cav-3 is primarily expressed in muscle tissue types (heart and skeletal muscle). However, our temporal and spatial analyses of these expression patterns during embryogenesis reveal several novel features, with possible relevance to developmental signaling. Transcripts encoding Xenopus Cav-1 and -2 first appear in the notochord of neurula stage embryos, which represents a key signaling tissue. In contrast, Xenopus Cav-3 shows a highly specific punctate expression pattern in the embryonic epidermis, similar to previous patterns implicated in Notch signaling. These findings are in striking contrast to their steady-state expression patterns in the adult frog. Taken together, our results show that the Xenopus caveolin gene family is present and differentially expressed in both embryonic and adult tissues. This report is the first detailed study of caveolin gene expression in a developing embryo.
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