PURPOSE OF REVIEWCaveolae are 50-100 nm cell surface plasma membrane invaginations observed in terminally differentiated cells. They are characterized by the presence of the protein marker caveolin-1. Caveolae and caveolin-1 are present in almost every cell type that has been implicated in the development of an atheroma. These include endothelial cells, macrophages, and smooth muscle cells. Caveolae and caveolin-1 are involved in regulating several signal transduction pathways and processes that play an important role in atherosclerosis.RECENT FINDINGSSeveral recent studies using genetically engineered mice (Cav-1 (-/-) null animals) have now clearly demonstrated a role for caveolin-1 and caveolae in the development of atherosclerosis. In fact, they suggest a rather complex one, either proatherogenic or antiatherogenic, depending on the cell type examined. For example, in endothelial cells, caveolin-1 and caveolae may play a proatherogenic role by promoting the transcytosis of LDL-cholesterol particles from the blood to the sub-endothelial space. In contrast, in smooth muscle cells, the ability of caveolin-1 to negatively regulate cell proliferation (neointimal hyperplasia) may have an antiatherogenic effect.SUMMARYCaveolin-1 and caveolae play an important role in several steps involved in the initiation of an atheroma. Development of new drugs that regulate caveolin-1 expression may be important in the prevention or treatment of atherosclerotic vascular disease.