The expression of caveolins is down-regulated in tissue samples of human thyroid autonomous adenomas and in the animal model of this disease. Because several cell types present in thyroid express caveolins, it remained unclear if this down-regulation occurs in thyrocytes and which are the mechanism and role of this down-regulation in the tumor context. Here we show that prolonged stimulation of isolated human thyrocytes by TSH/cAMP/cAMP-dependent protein kinase inhibits caveolins' expression. The expression of caveolins is not down-regulated by activators of other signaling pathways relevant to thyroid growth/function. Therefore, the down-regulation of caveolins' expression in autonomous adenomas is a direct consequence of the chronic activation of the TSH/cAMP pathway in thyrocytes. The down-regulation of caveolin-1 occurs at the mRNA level, with a consequent protein decrease. TSH/cAMP induces a transcription-dependent, translation-independent destabilization of the caveolin-1 mRNA. This effect is correlated to the known proliferative role of that cascade in thyrocytes. In vivo, thyrocytes of caveolin-1 knockout mice display enhanced proliferation. This demonstrates, for the first time, the in vivo significance of the specific caveolin-1 down-regulation by one mitogenic cascade and its relation to a human disease.