Objective: This study was undertaken to investigate the effect of lymphatic inhibition on joint and draining lymph node (LN) pathology during the course of arthritis progression in mice.
Methods: Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-transgenic mice were used as a model of chronic inflammatory arthritis. Mice were subjected to contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging to obtain ankle and knee joint synovial volumes and draining popliteal LN volumes before and after 8 weeks of treatment with vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR-3) neutralizing antibody, VEGFR-2 neutralizing antibody, or isotype IgG. Animals were subjected to near-infrared lymphatic imaging to determine the effect of VEGFR-3 neutralization on lymph transport from paws to draining popliteal LNs. Histologic, immunohistochemical, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analyses were used to examine lymphatic vessel formation and the morphology of joints and popliteal LNs.
Results: Compared with IgG treatment, VEGFR-3 neutralizing antibody treatment significantly decreased the size of popliteal LNs, the number of lymphatic vessels in joints and popliteal LNs, lymphatic drainage from paws to popliteal LNs, and the number of VEGF-C-expressing CD11b+ myeloid cells in popliteal LNs. However, it increased the synovial volume and area of inflammation in ankle and knee joints. VEGFR-2 neutralizing antibody, in contrast, inhibited both lymphangiogenesis and joint inflammation.
Conclusion: These findings indicate that lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic drainage are reciprocally related to the severity of joint lesions during the development of chronic arthritis. Lymphatic drainage plays a beneficial role in controlling the progression of chronic inflammation.