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J Physiol. 2011 Jun 15;589(Pt 12):2935-43. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.208298. Epub 2011 Apr 26.

Lymphatic fluid: exchange mechanisms and regulation.

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  • 1University of Missouri School of Medicine, Department of Physiology, MA 415 Medical Sciences Bldg, Columbia, MO 65212-0001, USA.


Regulation of fluid and material movement between the vascular space of microvessels penetrating functioning organs and the cells therein has been studied extensively. Unanswered questions as to the regulatory mechanisms and routes remain. Significantly less is known about the lymphatic vascular system given the difficulties in seeing, no less isolating, these vessels lying deeper in these same tissues. It has become evident that the exchange microvasculature is not simply a passive biophysical barrier separating the vascular and interstitial compartments but a dynamic, multicellular structure subject to acute regulation and chronic adaptation to stimuli including inflammation, sepsis, diabetes, injury, hypoxia and exercise. Similarly lymphatic vessels range, in their simplest form, from lymphatic endothelium attached to the interstitial matrix, to endothelia and phasic lymphatic smooth muscle that act as Starling resistors. Recent work has demonstrated that among the microvascular lymphatic elements, the collecting lymphatics have barrier properties similar to venules, and thus participate in exchange. As with venules, vasoactive agents can alter both the permeability and contractile properties thereby setting up previously unanticipated gradients in the tissue space and providing potential targets for the pharmacological prevention and/or resolution of oedema.

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