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Scaffolds and the scaffolding domain: an alternative paradigm for caveolin-1 signaling.

Caveolin-1 (Cav1) is a 22 kDa intracellular protein that is the main protein constituent of bulb-shaped membrane invaginations known as caveolae. Cav1 can be also found in functional non-caveolar structures at the plasma membrane called scaffolds. Scaffolds were originally described as SDS-resistant oligomers composed of 10-15 Cav1 monomers observable as 8S complexes by sucrose velocity gradient centrifugation. Recently, cryoelectron microscopy (cryoEM) and super-resolution microscopy have shown that 8S complexes are interlocking structures composed of 11 Cav1 monomers each, which further assemble modularly to form higher-order scaffolds and caveolae. In addition, Cav1 can act as a critical signaling regulator capable of direct interactions with multiple client proteins, in particular, the endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthase (eNOS), a role believed by many to be attributable to the highly conserved and versatile scaffolding domain (CSD). However, as the CSD is a hydrophobic domain located by cryoEM to the periphery of the 8S complex, it is predicted to be enmeshed in membrane lipids. This has led some to challenge its ability to interact directly with client proteins and argue that it impacts signaling only indirectly via local alteration of membrane lipids. Here, based on recent advances in our understanding of higher-order Cav1 structure formation, we discuss how the Cav1 CSD may function through both lipid and protein interaction and propose an alternate view in which structural modifications to Cav1 oligomers may impact exposure of the CSD to cytoplasmic client proteins, such as eNOS.

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