Expression of caveolin-1 and -3 in mouse smooth muscle cells in vivo was examined by immunohistochemistry. Caveolin-1 was detected in almost all smooth muscles examined, except for the pupillary dilator muscle, whereas caveolin-3 was present only in smooth muscles of some specific tissues. In the eye, the pupillary sphincter muscle was intensely positive for caveolin-3, whereas the ciliary muscle and pupillary dilator muscle were negative. In the gastrointestinal tract, caveolin-3 was detected in the inner circular layer, but not in the outer longitudinal layer. Vascular smooth muscle cells of the resistance-sized artery in the uterus and corpus cavernosum were intensely positive for caveolin-3, whereas those of the aorta were only weakly positive and those of the vena cava were negative. Caveolin-3 was also detected in smooth muscle cells of the urinary bladder, ureter, prostatic vas deferens, and seminal vesicle. The different levels of caveolin-3 expression among various smooth muscle tissues were confirmed by Western blot analysis. Even within the same muscle, the relative expression levels of caveolin-1 and -3 were variable among neighboring cells, suggesting distinct fine regulation of expression of these two caveolins. Moreover, even in the same cell, caveolin-1 and -3 showed different distributions. These results indicate that the two caveolins form distinct caveolae in smooth muscles, and that caveolin-1 and -3 serve different functions. Their differential expression may therefore be related to the functional diversity of smooth muscles.
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