The Intestinal Lymphatic System: Functions and Metabolic Implications

Vincenza Cifarelli, Anne Eichmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The lymphatic system of the gut plays important roles in the transport of dietary lipids, as well as in immunosurveillance and removal of interstitial fluid. Historically, despite its crucial functions in intestinal homeostasis, the lymphatic system has been poorly studied. In the last 2 decades, identification of specific molecular mediators of lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) growth together with novel genetic approaches and intravital imaging techniques, have advanced our understanding of the mechanisms regulating intestinal lymphatic physiology in health and disease. As its metabolic implications are gaining recognition, intestinal lymphatic biology is currently experiencing a surge in interest. This review describes current knowledge related to molecular control of intestinal lymphatic vessel structure and function. We discuss regulation of chylomicron entry into lymphatic vessels by vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs), hormones, transcription factors and the specific signaling pathways involved. The information covered supports the emerging role of intestinal lymphatics in etiology of the metabolic syndrome and their potential as a therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-513
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Endothelium
  • Lacteals
  • Lipid
  • Obesity
  • VEGF Signaling


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