This paper reviews the morphology of lymphatics and lymphangiogenesis in vivo, microenvironments that promote lymphangiogenesis, and the structure and function of lymph nodes. Lymphatic capillaries consist of a single layer of lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) and have valves, while collecting lymphatics are endowed with smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and valves besides a single layer of LECs. In the embryonic rat diaphragm, LECs first migrate presumably according to interstitial fluid flow and later join to form lymphatic vessels. SMCs of the collecting lymphatics are apparently differentiated from mesenchymal cells. LECs cultured on Cell Culture Inserts under a low oxygen condition proliferate very well and form a lymphatic network. LECs cultured on a collagen fiber network with a natural three-dimensional (3D) architecture under low oxygen rapidly form a 3D lymphatic network. The lymph node initiates an immune response as a critical crossroads for the encounter between antigen-presenting cells, antigens from lymph, and lymphocytes recruited into nodes from the blood. The node consists of spaces lined with LECs and parenchyma. High endothelial venules in the node strongly express Aquaporin-1, suggesting their involvement in the net absorption of water from lymph coming through afferent lymphatics. SMCs in node capsules seem to be involved in squeezing out lymphocytes and lymph. (English Translation of J Jpn Col Angiol 2008; 48: 107-112.).
Keywords: lymph node; lymphangiogenesis; lymphatic vessel; lymphedema; metastasis.