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Histol Histopathol. 2005 Jan;20(1):155-75. doi: 10.14670/HH-20.155.

Characteristics of lymphatic endothelial cells in physiological and pathological conditions.

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Division of Morphological Analysis, Department of Anatomy, Biology and Medicine, Oita University Faculty of Medicine, Oita 879-5593, Japan.


Impairment of lymphatic structure and function, e.g., inadequate endothelial permeability and intercellular openings, abnormal lymphangiogenesis and overexpression for immunoreactive agents, will result in tumor metastasis, autoimmune response alteration and accumulation of interstitial fluid and proteins. Recently, several novel molecules have been identified that allow a more precise distinction between lymphatic and blood vascular endothelium. The differences in expression of endothelial markers on the lymphatic vessel strongly suggest the possibility that there will be important divergence in the differentiating and regenerating responses in lymphatic behavior to various pathological processes. Undoubtfully, molecular techniques would also lead to the definition of unique markers found on lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) in lymphatic-associated diseases which are mostly involved in lymphangiogenesis. This review is mainly concentrated on the characteristics of LECs in diabetes, wound healing, lymphedema and tumor, especially in the experimental models that have offered insight into the LEC role in these diseases affecting the lymphatic system. Increased knowledge of the molecular signaling pathways driving lymphatic development and lymphangiogenesis should boost the impact of therapeutics on the diseases. Although the field about the mechanisms that control the formation and lineage-specific differentiation and function of lymphatic vessels has experienced rapid progress in the past few years, an understanding of the basis of the differences and their implications in the pathological conditions will require much more investigation.

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