Author(s): Hall KL, VolkDraper LD, Flister MJ, Ran S
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Macrophage-derived lymphatic endothelial cell progenitors (M-LECPs) contribute to new lymphatic vessel formation, but the mechanisms regulating their differentiation, recruitment, and function are poorly understood. Detailed characterization of M-LECPs is limited by low frequency in vivo and lack of model systems allowing in-depth molecular analyses in vitro. Our goal was to establish a cell culture model to characterize inflammation-induced macrophage-to-LECP differentiation under controlled conditions. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Time-course analysis of diaphragms from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated mice revealed rapid mobilization of bone marrow-derived and peritoneal macrophages to the proximity of lymphatic vessels followed by widespread (∼50\%) incorporation of M-LECPs into the inflamed lymphatic vasculature. A differentiation shift toward the lymphatic phenotype was found in three LPS-induced subsets of activated macrophages that were positive for VEGFR-3 and many other lymphatic-specific markers. VEGFR-3 was strongly elevated in the early stage of macrophage transition to LECPs but undetectable in M-LECPs prior to vascular integration. Similar transient pattern of VEGFR-3 expression was found in RAW264.7 macrophages activated by LPS in vitro. Activated RAW264.7 cells co-expressed VEGF-C that induced an autocrine signaling loop as indicated by VEGFR-3 phosphorylation inhibited by a soluble receptor. LPS-activated RAW264.7 macrophages also showed a 68\% overlap with endogenous CD11b(+)/VEGFR-3(+) LECPs in the expression of lymphatic-specific genes. Moreover, when injected into LPS- but not saline-treated mice, GFP-tagged RAW264.7 cells massively infiltrated the inflamed diaphragm followed by integration into 18\% of lymphatic vessels. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We present a new model for macrophage-LECP differentiation based on LPS activation of cultured RAW264.7 cells. This system designated here as the "RAW model" mimics fundamental features of endogenous M-LECPs. Unlike native LECPs, this model is unrestricted by cell numbers, heterogeneity of population, and ability to change genetic composition for experimental purposes. As such, this model can provide a valuable tool for understanding the LECP and lymphatic biology.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology