Caveolae are 50-100 nm flask-shaped invaginations of the plasma membrane found in most cell types. Caveolin-1 is the principal protein component of caveolae membranes in nonmuscle cells. The recent development of Cav-1-deficient mice has allowed investigators to study the in vivo functional role of caveolae in the context of a whole animal model, as these mice lack morphologically detectable caveolae membrane domains. Surprisingly, Cav-1 null mice are both viable and fertile. However, it remains unknown whether loss of caveolin-1 significantly affects the overall life span of these animals. To quantitatively determine whether loss of Cav-1 gene expression confers any survival disadvantages with increasing age, we generated a large cohort of mice (n = 180), consisting of Cav-1 wild-type (+/+) (n = 53), Cav-1 heterozygous (+/-) (n = 70), and Cav-1 knockout (-/-) (n = 57) animals, and monitored their long-term survival over a 2 year period. Here, we show that Cav-1 null (-/-) mice exhibit an ∼50% reduction in life span, with major declines in viability occurring between 27 and 65 weeks of age. However, Cav-1 heterozygous (+/-) mice did not show any changes in long-term survival, indicating that loss of both Cav-1 alleles is required to mediate a reduction in life span. Mechanistically, these dramatic reductions in life span appear to be secondary to a combination of pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and cardiac hypertrophy in Cav-1 null mice. Taken together, our results provide the first demonstration that loss of Cav-1 gene expression and caveolae organelles dramatically affects the long-term survival of an organism. In addition, aged Cav-1 null mice may provide a new animal model to study the pathogenesis and treatment of progressive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and sudden cardiac death syndrome.
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