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J Clin Cell Immunol. 2014;5. pii: 1000256.

Corneal Lymphatics: Role in Ocular Inflammation as Inducer and Responder of Adaptive Immunity.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The normal cornea is devoid of lymphatic and blood vessels, thus suppressing both the afferent (lymphatic) and efferent (vascular) arms of the immune response-contributing to its 'immune privilege'. Inflammation, however, negates this unique 'immune' and 'angiogenic' privilege of the cornea. Abnormal blood vessel growth from pre-existing limbal vessels into the cornea has been studied for many years, but it is only recently that the significance of new lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis) in ocular inflammatory diseases has been demonstrated. Whereas blood vessels in inflamed ocular surface provide a route of entry for immune effector cells to the cornea, lymphatics facilitate the exit of antigen-presenting cells and antigenic material from the cornea to regional lymph nodes, thus promoting induction of adaptive immune response. This review summarizes the current evidence for lymphangiogenesis in the cornea, and describes its molecular mediators; and discusses the interface between corneal lymphangiogenesis and adaptive immunity. Furthermore, the pathophysiologic implications of corneal lymphangiogenesis in the setting of allo- and autoimmune-mediated corneal inflammation are discussed.


Adaptive immunity; Cornea; Lymphangiogenesis; Ocular inflammation

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