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Cell Tissue Res. 2016 Dec;366(3):667-677. Epub 2016 Sep 6.

The lymphatic vascular system of the mouse head.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University Medical School Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University Medical School Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


Histological studies of the lymphatic vascular system in adult mice are hampered because bones cannot be sectioned properly. Here, we decalcified the heads of 14-day-old mice, embedded them in paraffin and stained resultant serial sections with the lymphendothelial-specific antibodies Lyve-1 and Podoplanin. We show that the tissues with the highest lymphatic vascular density are the dermis and the oral mucous membranes. In contrast, the nasal mucous membrane is devoid of lymphatics, except for its most basal parts below the vomeronasal organ. The inferior nasal turbinate contains numerous lymphatics and is connected to the nasolacrimal duct (NLD), which is ensheathed by a dense network of lymphatics. The lymphatics of the eye lids and conjunctiva are connected to those of the inferior nasal turbinate. We suggest that cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) can drain via the optic nerve and NLD lymphatics, whereas CSF drained via the Fila olfactoria into the nasal mucous membrane is used for moisturization of the respiratory air. Tongue, palatine and buccal mucous membranes possess numerous lymphatics, whereas the dental pulp has none. Lymphatics are present in the maxillary gland and close to the temporomandibular joint, suggesting the augmentation of lymph flow by chewing and yawning. Lymphatics can also be found in the dura mater and in the dural septae entering into deeper parts of the brain. Our findings are discussed with regard to CSF drainage and potential routes for ocular tumor dissemination.


Conjunctiva; Dura mater; Lymphatic endothelial cells; Nasolacrimal duct; Oral mucous membrane

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