Defective lymphatic valve development and chylothorax in mice with a lymphatic-specific deletion of Connexin43.
ABSTRACT: Lymphatic valves (LVs) are cusped luminal structures that permit the movement of lymph in only one direction and are therefore critical for proper lymphatic vessel function. Congenital valve aplasia or agenesis can, in some cases, be a direct cause of lymphatic disease. Knowledge about the molecular mechanisms operating during the development and maintenance of LVs may thus aid in the establishment of novel therapeutic approaches to treat lymphatic disorders. In this study, we examined the role of Connexin43 (Cx43), a gap junction protein expressed in lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs), during valve development. Mouse embryos with a null mutation in Cx43 (Gja1) were previously shown to completely lack mesenteric LVs at embryonic day 18. However, interpreting the phenotype of Cx43-/- mice was complicated by the fact that global deletion of Cx43 causes perinatal death due to heart defects during embryogenesis. We have now generated a mouse model (Cx43?LEC) with a lymphatic-specific ablation of Cx43 and show that the absence of Cx43 in LECs causes a delay (rather than a complete block) in LV initiation, an increase in immature valves with incomplete leaflet elongation, a reduction in the total number of valves, and altered lymphatic capillary patterning. The physiological consequences of these lymphatic changes were leaky valves, insufficient lymph transport and reflux, and a high incidence of lethal chylothorax. These results demonstrate that the expression of Cx43 is specifically required in LECs for normal development of LVs.
Project description:Intraluminal valves are required for the proper function of lymphatic collecting vessels and large lymphatic trunks like the thoracic duct. Despite recent progress in the study of lymphvasculogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, the molecular mechanisms controlling the morphogenesis of lymphatic valves remain poorly understood. Here, we report that gap junction proteins, or connexins (Cxs), are required for lymphatic valvulogenesis. Cx37 and Cx43 are expressed early in mouse lymphatic development in the jugular lymph sacs, and later in development these Cxs become enriched and differentially expressed by lymphatic endothelial cells on the upstream and downstream sides of the valves. Specific deficiencies of Cx37 and Cx43 alone or in combination result in defective valve formation in lymphatic collecting vessels, lymphedema, and chylothorax. We also show that Cx37 regulates jugular lymph sac size and that both Cx37 and Cx43 are required for normal thoracic duct development, including valve formation. Another Cx family member, Cx47, whose human analog is mutated in some families with lymphedema, is also highly enriched in a subset of endothelial cells in lymphatic valves. Mechanistically, we present data from Foxc2-/- embryos suggesting that Cx37 may be a target of regulation by Foxc2, a transcription factor that is mutated in human lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome. These results show that at least three Cxs are expressed in the developing lymphatic vasculature and, when defective, are associated with clinically manifest lymphatic disorders in mice and man.
Project description:Lymphatic vasculature is an integral part of digestive, immune and circulatory systems. The homeobox transcription factor PROX1 is necessary for the development of lymphatic vessels, lymphatic valves (LVs) and lymphovenous valves (LVVs). We and others previously reported a feedback loop between PROX1 and vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) signaling. PROX1 promotes the expression of the VEGF-C receptor VEGFR3 in lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs). In turn, VEGF-C signaling maintains PROX1 expression in LECs. However, the mechanisms of PROX1/VEGF-C feedback loop remain poorly understood. Whether VEGF-C signaling is necessary for LV and LVV development is also unknown. Here, we report for the first time that VEGF-C signaling is necessary for valve morphogenesis. We have also discovered that the transcriptional co-activators YAP and TAZ are required to maintain PROX1 expression in LVs and LVVs in response to VEGF-C signaling. Deletion of <i>Yap</i> and <i>Taz</i> in the lymphatic vasculature of mouse embryos did not affect the formation of LVs or LVVs, but resulted in the degeneration of these structures. Our results have identified VEGF-C, YAP and TAZ as a crucial molecular pathway in valve development.
Project description:The lymphatic system plays crucial roles in tissue homeostasis, lipid absorption, and immune cell trafficking. Although lymphatic valves ensure unidirectional lymph flows, the flow itself controls lymphatic valve formation. Here, we demonstrate that a mechanically activated ion channel Piezo1 senses oscillating shear stress (OSS) and incorporates the signal into the genetic program controlling lymphatic valve development and maintenance. Time-controlled deletion of Piezo1 using a pan-endothelial Cre driver (Cdh5[PAC]-CreERT2) or lymphatic-specific Cre driver (Prox1-CreERT2) equally inhibited lymphatic valve formation in newborn mice. Furthermore, Piezo1 deletion in adult lymphatics caused substantial lymphatic valve degeneration. Piezo1 knockdown in cultured lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) largely abrogated the OSS-induced upregulation of the lymphatic valve signature genes. Conversely, ectopic Piezo1 overexpression upregulated the lymphatic valve genes in the absence of OSS. Remarkably, activation of Piezo1 using chemical agonist Yoda1 not only accelerated lymphatic valve formation in animals, but also triggered upregulation of some lymphatic valve genes in cultured LECs without exposure to OSS. In summary, our studies together demonstrate that Piezo1 is the force sensor in the mechanotransduction pathway controlling lymphatic valve development and maintenance, and Piezo1 activation is a potentially novel therapeutic strategy for congenital and surgery-associated lymphedema.
Project description:Breast cancer metastasis involves lymphatic dissemination in addition to hematogenous spreading. Although stromal lymphatic vessels (LVs) serve as initial metastatic routes, roles of organ-residing LVs are underinvestigated. Here we show that lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs), a component of LVs within pre-metastatic niches, are conditioned by triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells to accelerate metastasis. LECs within the lungs and lymph nodes, conditioned by tumour-secreted factors, express CCL5 that is not expressed either in normal LECs or in cancer cells, and direct tumour dissemination into these tissues. Moreover, tumour-conditioned LECs promote angiogenesis in these organs, allowing tumour extravasation and colonization. Mechanistically, tumour cell-secreted IL6 causes Stat3 phosphorylation in LECs. This pStat3 induces HIF-1? and VEGF, and a pStat3-pc-Jun-pATF-2 ternary complex induces CCL5 expression in LECs. This study demonstrates anti-metastatic activities of multiple repurposed drugs, blocking a self-reinforcing paracrine loop between breast cancer cells and LECs.
Project description:Fluid shear forces have established roles in blood vascular development and function, but whether such forces similarly influence the low-flow lymphatic system is unknown. It has been difficult to test the contribution of fluid forces in vivo because mechanical or genetic perturbations that alter flow often have direct effects on vessel growth. Here, we investigated the functional role of flow in lymphatic vessel development using mice deficient for the platelet-specific receptor C-type lectin-like receptor 2 (CLEC2) as blood backfills the lymphatic network and blocks lymph flow in these animals. CLEC2-deficient animals exhibited normal growth of the primary mesenteric lymphatic plexus but failed to form valves in these vessels or remodel them into a structured, hierarchical network. Smooth muscle cell coverage (SMC coverage) of CLEC2-deficient lymphatic vessels was both premature and excessive, a phenotype identical to that observed with loss of the lymphatic endothelial transcription factor FOXC2. In vitro evaluation of lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) revealed that low, reversing shear stress is sufficient to induce expression of genes required for lymphatic valve development and identified GATA2 as an upstream transcriptional regulator of FOXC2 and the lymphatic valve genetic program. These studies reveal that lymph flow initiates and regulates many of the key steps in collecting lymphatic vessel maturation and development.
Project description:Tumor-associated lymphatic vessels (LVs) play multiple roles during tumor progression, including promotion of metastasis and regulation of antitumor immune responses by delivering antigen from the tumor bed to draining lymph nodes (LNs). Under steady-state conditions, LN resident lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) have been found to maintain peripheral tolerance by directly inhibiting autoreactive T-cells. Similarly, tumor-associated lymphatic endothelium has been suggested to reduce antitumor T-cell responses, but the mechanisms that mediate this effect have not been clarified. Using two distinct experimental tumor models, we found that tumor-associated LVs gain expression of the T-cell inhibitory molecule PDL1, similar to LN resident LECs, whereas tumor-associated blood vessels downregulate PDL1. The observed lymphatic upregulation of PDL1 was likely due to IFN-g released by stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment. Furthermore, we found that blocking PDL1 results in increased T-cell stimulation by antigen-presenting LECs in vitro. Taken together, our data suggest that peripheral, tumor-associated lymphatic endothelium contributes to T-cell inhibition, by a mechanism similar to peripheral tolerance maintenance described for LN resident LECs. These findings may have clinical implications for cancer therapy, as lymphatic expression of PDL1 could represent a new biomarker to select patients for immunotherapy with PD1 or PDL1 inhibitors.
Project description:Lymphedema, the most common lymphatic anomaly, involves defective lymphatic valve development; yet the epigenetic modifiers underlying lymphatic valve morphogenesis remain elusive. Here, we showed that during mouse development, the histone-modifying enzyme histone deacetylase 3 (Hdac3) regulates the formation of both lymphovenous valves, which maintain the separation of the blood and lymphatic vascular systems, and the lymphatic valves. Endothelium-specific ablation of Hdac3 in mice led to blood-filled lymphatic vessels, edema, defective lymphovenous valve morphogenesis, improper lymphatic drainage, defective lymphatic valve maturation, and complete lethality. Hdac3-deficient lymphovenous valves and lymphatic vessels exhibited reduced expression of the transcription factor Gata2 and its target genes. In response to oscillatory shear stress, the transcription factors Tal1, Gata2, and Ets1/2 physically interacted with and recruited Hdac3 to the evolutionarily conserved E-box-GATA-ETS composite element of a Gata2 intragenic enhancer. In turn, Hdac3 recruited histone acetyltransferase Ep300 to form an enhanceosome complex that promoted Gata2 expression. Together, these results identify Hdac3 as a key epigenetic modifier that maintains blood-lymph separation and integrates both extrinsic forces and intrinsic cues to regulate lymphatic valve development.
Project description:Lymphatic valves prevent the backflow of the lymph fluid and ensure proper lymphatic drainage throughout the body. Local accumulation of lymphatic fluid in tissues, a condition called lymphedema, is common in individuals with malformed lymphatic valves. The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR3) is required for the development of lymphatic vascular system. The abundance of VEGFR3 in collecting lymphatic trunks is high before valve formation and, except at valve regions, decreases after valve formation. We found that in mesenteric lymphatics, the abundance of epsin 1 and 2, which are ubiquitin-binding adaptor proteins involved in endocytosis, was low at early stages of development. After lymphatic valve formation, the initiation of steady shear flow was associated with an increase in the abundance of epsin 1 and 2 in collecting lymphatic trunks, but not in valve regions. Epsin 1 and 2 bound to VEGFR3 and mediated the internalization and degradation of VEGFR3, resulting in termination of VEGFR3 signaling. Mice with lymphatic endothelial cell-specific deficiency of epsin 1 and 2 had dilated lymphatic capillaries, abnormally high VEGFR3 abundance in collecting lymphatics, immature lymphatic valves, and defective lymph drainage. Deletion of a single Vegfr3 allele or pharmacological suppression of VEGFR3 signaling restored normal lymphatic valve development and lymph drainage in epsin-deficient mice. Our findings establish a critical role for epsins in the temporal and spatial regulation of VEGFR3 abundance and signaling in collecting lymphatic trunks during lymphatic valve formation.
Project description:Lymphatic vessels are critical for the maintenance of tissue fluid homeostasis and their dysfunction contributes to several human diseases. The activin receptor-like kinase 1 (ALK1) is a transforming growth factor-? family type 1 receptor that is expressed on both blood and lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs). Its high-affinity ligand, bone morphogenetic protein 9 (BMP9), has been shown to be critical for retinal angiogenesis. The aim of this work was to investigate whether BMP9 could play a role in lymphatic development. We found that Bmp9 deficiency in mice causes abnormal lymphatic development. Bmp9-knockout (KO) pups presented hyperplastic mesenteric collecting vessels that maintained LYVE-1 expression. In accordance with this result, we found that BMP9 inhibited LYVE-1 expression in LECs in an ALK1-dependent manner. Bmp9-KO pups also presented a significant reduction in the number and in the maturation of mesenteric lymphatic valves at embryonic day 18.5 and at postnatal days 0 and 4. Interestingly, the expression of several genes known to be involved in valve formation (Foxc2, Connexin37, EphrinB2, and Neuropilin1) was upregulated by BMP9 in LECS. Finally, we demonstrated that Bmp9-KO neonates and adult mice had decreased lymphatic draining efficiency. These data identify BMP9 as an important extracellular regulator in the maturation of the lymphatic vascular network affecting valve development and lymphatic vessel function.
Project description:The lymphatic vasculature requires intraluminal valves to maintain forward lymph flow. Lymphatic valves form and are constantly maintained by oscillatory fluid flow throughout life, yet the earliest steps of how lymphatic endothelial cells are able to respond to fluid shear stress remain unknown. Here, we show that the adherens junction protein VE-cadherin is required for the upregulation of valve-specific transcription factors. Conditional deletion of VE-cadherin in vivo prevented valve formation in the embryo and caused postnatal regression of nearly all lymphatic valves in multiple tissues. Since VE-cadherin is known to signal through ?-catenin and the VEGFR/AKT pathway, each pathway was probed. Expression of a constitutively active ?-catenin mutant or direct pharmacologic activation of AKT in vivo significantly rescued valve regression in the VE-cadherin-deficient lymphatic vessels. In conclusion, VE-cadherin-dependent signaling is required for lymphatic valve formation and maintenance and therapies to augment downstream pathways hold potential to treat lymphedema in patients.