Lymphangiogenesis-mediated shedding of LAM cell clusters as a mechanism for dissemination in lymphangioleiomyomatosis

Am J Surg Pathol. 2005 Oct;29(10):1356-66. doi: 10.1097/01.pas.0000172192.25295.45.


Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) affects exclusively women of reproductive age, involves the lungs and axial lymphatic system, and is frequently complicated with renal angiomyolipomas. LAM lesions are generated by the proliferation of LAM cells with mutations of one of the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) genes. Recent studies indicate that LAM cells can migrate or metastasize to form new lesions in multiple organs, although they show a morphologically benign appearance. In the previous study, we reported LAM-associated lymphangiogenesis and implicated its role in the progression of LAM. In this study, we further focused on the lymphatic abnormalities in LAM: LAM-associated chylous fluid (5 pleural effusion and 2 ascites), surgically resected diaphragm (1 patient), and axial lymphatic system including the thoracic duct, lymph nodes at various regions, and diaphragmatic lymphatic system (5 autopsy cases). We demonstrated that LAM cell clusters enveloped by lymphatic endothelial cells (LCC) in all chylous fluid examined. We identified LAM lesion in the diaphragm (2 of 5 autopy cases and one surgical specimen), thoracic duct (5 of 5), and lymph nodes (retroperitoneal (5 of 5), mediastinal (4 of 5), left venous angle (5 of 5) with total positive rate of 68% to 88% at each region of the lymph node, but less frequent or none at remote lymph nodes located away from the axial lymph trunk (cervical [1 of 5] and axillary [0 of 5]). LCCs were identified in intra-LAM lesional lymphatic channels where LAM cells proliferate along lymphatic system. In in vitro culture system, LCC can fragment into each proliferating LAM cell. These findings suggest that LAM-associated lymphangiogenesis demarcates LAM lesion into bundle- or fascicle-like structure and eventually shed LCC into the lymphatic circulation and that LCCs play a central role in the dissemination of LAM lesion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chylous Ascites / etiology
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphangiogenesis*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / complications
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Thoracic Duct / pathology