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Am J Physiol. 1989 Dec;257(6 Pt 2):H2059-69.

Characterization of intact mesenteric lymphatic pump and its responsiveness to acute edemagenic stress.

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  • 1Microcirculation Research Institute, College of Medicine, Texas A & M University, College Station 77843.


The contractile properties of the mesenteric collecting lymphatics of the rat were analyzed under control conditions and during periods of enhanced lymph formation using in vivo microscopic techniques. Pressure and diameter were simultaneously monitored in microscopic collecting lymphatics, and lymphatic pump function was analyzed in accordance with basic principles of cardiac mechanics. The lymphatic contractile cycle was divided into two phases of systole and four phases of diastole. Under control conditions, lymphatics contracted with a frequency of 6.4 +/- 0.61 beats/min and ejected approximately 67% of their end-diastolic volume. Ten minutes after the rate of lymph formation was elevated by plasma dilution, end-diastolic diameter, contraction frequency, ejection fraction, and stroke volume increased. Pressure in the lymphatic network became less pulsatile in high lymph flow states. Contractility, an index of inotropic changes in lymphatic pump, was unaltered when lymph flow was increased by plasma dilution. Furthermore, the maximal shortening velocity of lymphatic smooth muscle did not change during periods of enhanced lymph flow. Thus it appears that passive increases in the rate of lymph formation exert few, if any, inotropic effects on the lymphatic pump. The augmented stroke volume and contraction frequency appear to result mainly from intrinsic stretch-dependent mechanisms set in motion by elevated preload. These data represent the first comprehensive characterization of both the flow-generating and muscle characteristics of intact collecting lymphatics and provide a basis for future studies on the physiological regulation of lymphatic contraction.

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