Caveolae are microdomains of the plasma membrane that have been implicated in signal transduction. Caveolin, a 21-24-kDa integral membrane protein, is a principal component of the caveolae membrane. Recently, we and others have identified a family of caveolin-related proteins; caveolin has been retermed caveolin-1. Caveolin-3 is most closely related to caveolin-1, but caveolin-3 mRNA is expressed only in muscle tissue types. Here, we examine (i) the expression of caveolin-3 protein in muscle tissue types and (ii) its localization within skeletal muscle fibers by immunofluorescence microscopy and subcellular fractionation. For this purpose, we generated a novel monoclonal antibody (mAb) probe that recognizes the unique N-terminal region of caveolin-3, but not other members of the caveolin gene family. A survey of tissues and muscle cell types by Western blot analysis reveals that the caveolin-3 protein is selectively expressed only in heart and skeletal muscle tissues, cardiac myocytes, and smooth muscle cells. Immunolocalization of caveolin-3 in skeletal muscle fibers demonstrates that caveolin-3 is localized to the sarcolemma (muscle cell plasma membrane) and coincides with the distribution of another muscle-specific plasma membrane marker protein, dystrophin. In addition, caveolin-3 protein expression is dramatically induced during the differentiation of C2C12 skeletal myoblasts in culture. Using differentiated C2C12 skeletal myoblasts as a model system, we observe that caveolin-3 co-fractionates with cytoplasmic signaling molecules (G- proteins and Src-like kinases) and members of the dystrophin complex (dystrophin, α-sarcoglycan, and β-dystroglycan), but is clearly separated from the bulk of cellular proteins. Caveolin-3 co-immunoprecipitates with antibodies directed against dystrophin, suggesting that they are physically associated as a discrete complex. These results are consistent with previous immunoelectron microscopic studies demonstrating that dystrophin is localized to plasma membrane caveolae in smooth muscle cells.