The lymphatic vasculature in disease

Nat Med. 2011 Nov 7;17(11):1371-80. doi: 10.1038/nm.2545.


Blood vessels form a closed circulatory system, whereas lymphatic vessels form a one-way conduit for tissue fluid and leukocytes. In most vertebrates, the main function of lymphatic vessels is to collect excess protein-rich fluid that has extravasated from blood vessels and transport it back into the blood circulation. Lymphatic vessels have an important immune surveillance function, as they import various antigens and activated antigen-presenting cells into the lymph nodes and export immune effector cells and humoral response factors into the blood circulation. Defects in lymphatic function can lead to lymph accumulation in tissues, dampened immune responses, connective tissue and fat accumulation, and tissue swelling known as lymphedema. This review highlights the most recent developments in lymphatic biology and how the lymphatic system contributes to the pathogenesis of various diseases involving immune and inflammatory responses and its role in disseminating tumor cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Lymph / physiology
  • Lymphangiogenesis / physiology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Lymphatic System* / pathology
  • Lymphatic System* / physiology
  • Lymphatic System* / physiopathology
  • Lymphatic Vessels* / pathology
  • Lymphatic Vessels* / physiology
  • Lymphatic Vessels* / physiopathology
  • Lymphedema / pathology
  • Lymphedema / physiopathology
  • Organ Transplantation
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases