Lung lymphatic endothelial cells undergo inflammatory and prothrombotic changes in a model of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Anjali Trivedi, Tyler M. Lu, Barbara Summers, Kihwan Kim, Alexander J. Rhee, Sean Houghton, Derek E. Byers, Raphaël Lis, Hasina Outtz Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The lymphatic vasculature regulates lung homeostasis through drainage of fluid and trafficking of immune cells and plays a key role in the response to lung injury in several disease states. We have previously shown that lymphatic dysfunction occurs early in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caused by cigarette smoke (CS) and that this is associated with increased thrombin and fibrin clots in lung lymph. However, the direct effects of CS and thrombin on lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) in COPD are not entirely clear. Studies of the blood vasculature have shown that COPD is associated with increased thrombin after CS exposure that causes endothelial dysfunction characterized by changes in the expression of coagulation factors and leukocyte adhesion proteins. Here, we determined whether similar changes occur in LECs. We used an in vitro cell culture system and treated human lung microvascular lymphatic endothelial cells with cigarette smoke extract (CSE) and/or thrombin. We found that CSE treatment led to decreased fibrinolytic activity in LECs, which was associated with increased expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1). LECs treated with both CSE and thrombin together had a decreased expression of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) and increased expression of adhesion molecules. RNA sequencing of lung LECs isolated from mice exposed to CS also showed upregulation of prothrombotic and inflammatory pathways at both acute and chronic exposure time points. Analysis of publicly available single-cell RNA sequencing of LECs as well as immunohistochemical staining of lung tissue from COPD patients supported these data and showed increased expression of inflammatory markers in LECs from COPD patients compared to those from controls. These studies suggest that in parallel with blood vessels, the lymphatic endothelium undergoes inflammatory changes associated with CS exposure and increased thrombin in COPD. Further research is needed to unravel the mechanisms by which these changes affect lymphatic function and drive tissue injury in COPD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1344070
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 2024


  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • cigarette smoke
  • inflammation
  • lymphatic endothelial cells
  • lymphatic vasculature


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