Lymphatic vessels are important for the maintenance of normal tissue fluid balance, immune surveillance and adsorption of digested fats. During the past decade, the identification of lymphatic-specific markers and growth factors has enabled detailed studies of the lymphatic system, and gain- and loss-of-function experiments have greatly increased our understanding of the mechanisms of normal lymphatic development. Understanding the basic biology has provided novel insights into the pathologic conditions of the lymphatic system that contribute to lymphedema, inflammation or lymphatic metastasis, and opened possibilities for the development of better therapeutic strategies. Here we review the current knowledge about the molecular mechanisms regulating the development of the lymphatic vasculature; of the differentiation of lymphatic endothelial cells, of the regulation of the growth of lymphatic vessels, and of remodeling of the vasculature into a network consisting of lymphatic capillaries and collecting lymphatic vessels. Furthermore, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathological conditions of the lymphatic vessels.
2006. Vol. 312, no 5