Endothelial cells line blood and lymphatic vessels and form intercellular junctions, which preserve vessel structure and integrity. The vascular endothelial cadherin, VE-cadherin, mediates endothelial adhesion and is indispensible for blood vessel development and permeability regulation. However, its requirement for lymphatic vessels has not been addressed. During development, VE-cadherin deletion in lymphatic endothelial cells resulted in abortive lymphangiogenesis, edema, and prenatal death. Unexpectedly, inducible postnatal or adult deletion elicited vessel bed-specific responses. Mature dermal lymph vessels resisted VE-cadherin loss and maintained button junctions, which was associated with an upregulation of junctional molecules. Very different, mesenteric lymphatic collectors deteriorated and formed a strongly hyperplastic layer of lymphatic endothelial cells on the mesothelium. This massive hyperproliferation may have been favored by high mesenteric VEGF-C expression and was associated with VEGFR-3 phosphorylation and upregulation of the transcriptional activator TAZ Finally, intestinal lacteals fragmented into cysts or became highly distended possibly as a consequence of the mesenteric defects. Taken together, we demonstrate here the importance of VE-cadherin for lymphatic vessel development and maintenance, which is however remarkably vessel bed-specific.
Keywords: VE‐cadherin; YAP/TAZ; lymph vessels; lymphatic valves; vascular heterogeneity.
© 2018 The Authors.