Molecular regulation of lymphatic contractility. Academic Article uri icon


  • The lymphatic system plays critical roles in body fluid and macromolecular homeostasis, lipid absorption, immune function, and metastasis. To accomplish these tasks, the lymphatics must move lymph and its contents from the interstitial space through the lymph vessels and nodes and into the great veins. Contrary to popular belief, lymph does not passively "drain" down this pathway, because the net pressure gradients oppose flow. Instead, the lymphatics must act as both the conduits that direct and regulate lymph flow and the pumps that generate the lymph flow. Thus, to regulate lymph transport and function, both lymphatic pumping and flow resistance must be controlled. Both of these processes occur via regulation of lymphatic muscle contractions, which are classically thought to occur via the interaction of cell calcium with regulatory and contractile proteins. However, our knowledge of this regulation of lymphatic contractile function is far from complete. In this chapter we review our understanding of the important molecular mechanisms, the calcium regulation, and the contractile/regulatory proteins that control lymphatic contractions. A better understanding of these mechanisms could provide the basis for the development of better diagnostic and treatment modalities for lymphatic dysfunction. While progress has been made in our understanding of the molecular biology of lymphangiogenesis as a result of the development of potential lymphangiogenic therapeutic targets, there are currently no therapeutic agents that specifically modulate lymphatic pump function and lymph flow via lymphatic muscle. However, their development will not be possible until the molecular basis of lymphatic contractility is more fully understood.

published proceedings

  • Ann N Y Acad Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Muthuchamy, M., & Zawieja, D.

citation count

  • 96

complete list of authors

  • Muthuchamy, Mariappan||Zawieja, David

publication date

  • May 2008