Organ-specific lymphatic vasculature: From development to pathophysiology

J Exp Med. 2018 Jan 2;215(1):35-49. doi: 10.1084/jem.20171868. Epub 2017 Dec 14.


Recent discoveries of novel functions and diverse origins of lymphatic vessels have drastically changed our view of lymphatic vasculature. Traditionally regarded as passive conduits for fluid and immune cells, lymphatic vessels now emerge as active, tissue-specific players in major physiological and pathophysiological processes. Lymphatic vessels show remarkable plasticity and heterogeneity, reflecting their functional specialization to control the tissue microenvironment. Moreover, alternative developmental origins of lymphatic endothelial cells in some organs may contribute to the diversity of their functions in adult tissues. This review aims to summarize the most recent findings of organotypic differentiation of lymphatic endothelial cells in terms of their distinct (patho)physiological functions in skin, lymph nodes, small intestine, brain, and eye. We discuss recent advances in our understanding of the heterogeneity of lymphatic vessels with respect to the organ-specific functional and molecular specialization of lymphatic endothelium, such as the hybrid blood-lymphatic identity of Schlemm's canal, functions of intestinal lymphatics in dietary fat uptake, and discovery of meningeal lymphatic vasculature and perivascular brain lymphatic endothelial cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lymphangiogenesis*
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiology*
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiopathology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tissue Engineering