Co-ordination of pumping in isolated bovine lymphatic vessels

J Physiol. 1992 May;450:503-12. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1992.sp019139.


1. Segments of bovine mesenteric lymphatic of varying diameter taken from different parts of the lymphatic tree were cut to 20 mm in length and set up so that measurements could be made of spontaneous isometric contractions. 2. There was considerable variability in frequency of spontaneous contractions but this was independent of resting tension. There was no significant correlation between lymphatic diameter and inherent frequency of contraction. 3. Isolated segments of bovine mesenteric lymphatic 70-80 mm in length were cannulated and set up in a three-compartment organ bath which allowed independent temperature control in each compartment. Pressure was recorded at inflow and outflow ends and experiments were video recorded. 4. Contractile activity was normally initiated at the end of the lymphatic maintained at the higher temperature and the contractile wave was propagated along the length of the vessel. 5. Propagation could occur either in the direction of valve orientation (orthograde) or retrogradely. The volume of fluid pumped was not significantly affected by the direction of propagation. 6. Perfusion of the central compartment with Krebs solution at 0-2 degrees C disrupted normal propagation and allowed the two parts of the lymphatic to contract at different frequencies although the two parts maintained an approximately 2:1 ratio. 7. Perfusion of the central compartment with 10 mM-heptanol also disrupted normal propagation but the rates on either side of the partition bore no harmonic relationship to one another. 8. These results suggest that relatively short segments of lymph duct have the ability to contract spontaneously and that their inherent frequencies are not determined by their position in the lymphatic tree. The results are consistent with the existence of electrical coupling along the lymphatic's length and they suggest that over distances of at least 80 mm independent pacemakers are capable of mutual entrainment at a frequency representing a compromise between the fastest and slowest components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cold Temperature
  • Heptanol
  • Lymphatic System / physiology*
  • Mesentery
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology
  • Temperature


  • Alcohols
  • Heptanol