Increased Interstitial Protein Because of Impaired Lymph Drainage Does Not Induce Fibrosis and Inflammation in Lymphedema.
OBJECTIVE: The pathophysiology of lymphedema is incompletely understood. We asked how transcapillary fluid balance parameters and lymph flow are affected in a transgenic mouse model of primary lymphedema, which due to an inhibition of VEGFR-3-Ig signaling lacks dermal lymphatics, and whether protein accumulation in the interstitium occurring in lymphedema results in inflammation. METHODS AND RESULTS: As estimated using a new optical-imaging technique, we found that this signaling defect resulted in lymph drainage in hind limb skin of K14-VEGFR-3-Ig mice that was 34% of the corresponding value in wild-type. The interstitial fluid pressure and tissue fluid volumes were significantly increased in the areas of visible swelling only, whereas the colloid osmotic pressure in plasma, and thus the colloid osmotic pressure gradient, was reduced compared to wild-type mice. An acute volume load resulted in an exaggerated interstitial fluid pressure response in transgenic mice. There was no accumulation of collagen or lipid in skin, suggesting that chronic edema presented in the K14-VEGFR-3-Ig mouse was not sufficient to induce changes in tissue composition. Proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-2, interleukin-6, interleukin-12) in subcutaneous interstitial fluid and macrophage infiltration in skin of the paw were lower, whereas the monocyte/macrophage cell fraction in blood and spleen was higher in transgenic compared with wild-type mice. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that a high interstitial protein concentration and longstanding edema is not sufficient to induce fibrosis and inflammation characteristic for the human condition and may have implications for our understanding of the pathophysiology of this condition.