Mast cells, sentinel immune cells, are most abundantly expressed in vascularized tissues that interface the external environment, such as the skin and ocular surface. Our previous reports have shown mast cells reside closely with vascular endothelial cells and mediate the pathogenic angiogenic response. However, the contribution of mast cells and their underlying mechanisms on lymphangiogenesis have not been fully deciphered. Using a murine model of inflammatory corneal angiogenesis, we observed adjacent migration of activated mast cells with new lymph vessel growth. Our in vitro co-culture assays demonstrate that mast cells express high levels of of VEGF-D and directly promote lymphatic endothelial cell tube formation and proliferation. Moreover, our loss-of-function approaches, using mast cell knockout mice and cromolyn-mediated mast cell inhibition, showed mast cell deficiency suppresses the induction of inflammatory lymphangiogenesis and VEGF-D expression at the ocular surface following corneal tissue insult. Our findings suggest blockade of mast cells as a potential therapeutic strategy to inhibit pathological lymphangiogenesis.
Keywords: Lymphangiogenesis; Mast cells; Ocular surface; cKit.
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