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J Clin Invest. 2005 Sep;115(9):2316-9.

The crucial role of macrophages in lymphangiogenesis.

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Department of Pathology, Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Lymphangiogenesis is associated with pathological processes such as the metastatic spread of carcinoma cells and organization of immunologically active lymphocytic infiltrates following organ transplantation. It has not yet been established whether expansion of the lymphatic vascular meshwork is driven by incorporation of progenitor cells or by local endothelial cell division. In this issue of the JCI, Maruyama et al. provide evidence that after mouse corneal transplant, CD11b+ macrophages infiltrate the corneal stroma and transdifferentiate into lymphatic endothelial cell clusters that join existing lymphatic vessels. In complementary in vitro experiments, murine peritoneal macrophages expressed lymphatic endothelial markers and formed vessel-like protrusions. These findings add yet another facet to the plasticity of macrophages, which are already known to transform from naive monocytes into VEGF-C-producing cells. Thus, macrophages support lymphangiogenesis in 2 different ways, either by transdifferentiating and directly incorporating into the endothelial layer or by stimulating division of preexistent local lymphatic endothelial cells.

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