Lymphatic vessels have historically been viewed as passive conduits for fluid and immune cells, but this perspective is increasingly being revised as new functions of lymphatic vessels are revealed. Emerging evidence shows that lymphatic endothelium takes an active part in immune regulation both by antigen presentation and expression of immunomodulatory genes. In addition, lymphatic vessels play an important role in uptake of dietary fat and clearance of cholesterol from peripheral tissues, and they have been implicated in obesity and arteriosclerosis. Lymphatic vessels within different organs and in different physiological and pathological processes show a remarkable plasticity and heterogeneity, reflecting their functional specialization. In addition, lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) of different organs were recently shown to have alternative developmental origins, which may contribute to the development of the diverse lymphatic vessel and endothelial functions seen in the adult. Here, we discuss recent developments in the understanding of heterogeneity within the lymphatic system considering the organ-specific functional and molecular specialization of LECs and their developmental origin.
Keywords: Haemogenic endothelium; Lymphangiogenesis; Lymphatic vascular development; Lymphatic vessel; Lymphvasculogenesis.
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.