Active lymph transport relies on smooth muscle cell (SMC) contractions around collecting lymphatic vessels, yet regulation of lymphatic vessel wall assembly and lymphatic pumping are poorly understood. Here, we identify Reelin, an extracellular matrix glycoprotein previously implicated in central nervous system development, as an important regulator of lymphatic vascular development. Reelin-deficient mice showed abnormal collecting lymphatic vessels, characterized by a reduced number of SMCs, abnormal expression of lymphatic capillary marker lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor 1 (LYVE-1), and impaired function. Furthermore, we show that SMC recruitment to lymphatic vessels stimulated release and proteolytic processing of endothelium-derived Reelin. Lymphatic endothelial cells in turn responded to Reelin by up-regulating monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP1) expression, which suggests an autocrine mechanism for Reelin-mediated control of endothelial factor expression upstream of SMC recruitment. These results uncover a mechanism by which Reelin signaling is activated by communication between the two cell types of the collecting lymphatic vessels--smooth muscle and endothelial cells--and highlight a hitherto unrecognized and important function for SMCs in lymphatic vessel morphogenesis and function.
2012. Vol. 197, no 6