Lymphatic smooth muscle: the motor unit of lymph drainage

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Jul;36(7):1147-53. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2003.12.008.


Embedded into the wall of collecting lymphatic vessels and trunks, the lymphatic smooth muscles are cardinal to the functions of the lymphatic system. Their intrinsic contractile property--the intrinsic lymph pump--through rhythmical and phasic contractions of the vessels, represents the principal mechanism by which lymph flow is generated. Through changes in tonic constrictions, lymphatic smooth muscles also modulate lymph flow resistance. Lymphatic smooth muscles are sensitive to physical and chemical stimuli, mediating changes in their activity and modulating lymphatic drainage. Because lymphatic smooth muscles play such an important role in fluid transport, their dysfunction may be a component of many inflammatory disease states. This review presents recent findings on the physiology and cellular biology of lymphatic smooth muscles and discusses the importance of these cells for the function of the lymphatic system in physiological and pathophysiological situations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Lymph / metabolism*
  • Lymph / physiology
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiology*
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiopathology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology*