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Keywords:

  • lymphangiogenesis;
  • blood and lymphatic vascular endothelial cells;
  • VEGFR-3/VEGF-C;
  • Prox1;
  • gene expression profiling

Abstract: The lymphatic vascular system is necessary for the return of extravasated interstitial fluid and macromolecules to the blood circulation, for immune defense, and for the uptake of dietary fats. Impaired functioning of lymphatic vessels results in lymphedema, whereas tumor-associated lymphangiogenesis may contribute to the spread of cancer cells from solid tumors. Recent studies have identified lymphatic molecular markers and growth factors necessary for lymphangiogenesis. In particular, lymphatic endothelial receptor tyrosine kinase VEGFR-3 and its ligands VEGF-C and VEGF-D play crucial roles in promoting lymphatic vascular growth both during development and in pathological conditions. Isolation of pure cultures of lymphatic and blood vascular endothelial cells and systematic characterization of their transcriptomes provide useful cell culture models and novel potential vascular markers and offer further insights into the lymphatic vascular biology. Ectopic expression of the lymphatic endothelial specific homeobox transcription factor Prox1 in blood endothelial cells results in a shift in the gene expression profile towards the lymphatic endothelial phenotype, demonstrating the plasticity of endothelial cells and offering the possibility of transcriptional reprogramming of vascular endothelial cells for future therapeutic applications.