Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 483 - 494 (2011)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.103226ia
© UPV/EHU Press

Molecular mechanisms of lymphangiogenesis in development and cancer

Imke Albrecht and Gerhard Christofori*

Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics, Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

ABSTRACT The lymphatic system, also named the second vascular system, plays a critical role in tissue homeostasis and immunosurveillance. The past two decades of intensive research have led to the identification and detailed understanding of many molecular players and mechanisms regulating the formation of the lymphatic vasculature during embryonic development. Furthermore, clinical and experimental data clearly demonstrate that the formation of new lymphatic vessels by sprouting lymphangiogenesis from pre-existing lymphatic vessels, or by the de novo formation of lymphatic capillaries also occurs in various pathological conditions, such as cancer and organ transplant rejection, while lymphangiogenesis is non-functional in primary edema. In cancer, lymphatic vessels are one major gateway for invasive tumor cells to leave the primary tumor site and to establish distant organ metastasis. Therefore, the specific targeting of the lymphatic vasculature at the tumor site could be a promising approach to prevent metastasis formation.


angiogenesis, cancer, development, lymphangiogenesis, metastasis, signaling

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