The Lymphatic System: Integral Roles in Immunity

Annu Rev Immunol. 2017 Apr 26;35:31-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-041015-055354. Epub 2016 Nov 14.


The lymphatic vasculature is not considered a formal part of the immune system, but it is critical to immunity. One of its major roles is in the coordination of the trafficking of antigen and immune cells. However, other roles in immunity are emerging. Lymphatic endothelial cells, for example, directly present antigen or express factors that greatly influence the local environment. We cover these topics herein and discuss how other properties of the lymphatic vasculature, such as mechanisms of lymphatic contraction (which immunologists traditionally do not take into account), are nonetheless integral in the immune system. Much is yet unknown, and this nascent subject is ripe for exploration. We argue that to consider the impact of lymphatic biology in any given immunological interaction is a key step toward integrating immunology with organ physiology and ultimately many complex pathologies.

Keywords: adhesion; endothelium; lymph; lymph node; migration.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Endothelial Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System*
  • Immunity*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lymphatic System / immunology*
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiology*