Lymphatic Vessel Insufficiency in Hypercholesterolemic Mice Alters Lipoprotein Levels and Promotes Atherogenesis

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Lymphatic vessels collect extravasated fluid and proteins from tissues to blood circulation as well as play an essential role in lipid metabolism by taking up intestinal chylomicrons. Previous studies have shown that impairment of lymphatic vessel function causes lymphedema and fat accumulation, but clear connections between arterial pathologies and lymphatic vessels have not been described.

Approach and Results—

Two transgenic mouse strains with lymphatic insufficiency (soluble vascular endothelial growth factor 3 [sVEGFR3] and Chy) were crossed with atherosclerotic mice deficient of low-density lipoprotein receptor and apolipoprotein B48 (LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100) to study the effects of insufficient lymphatic vessel transport on lipoprotein metabolism and atherosclerosis. Both sVEGFR3×LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100 mice and Chy×LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100 mice had higher plasma cholesterol levels compared with LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100 control mice during both normal chow diet (16.3 and 13.7 versus 8.2 mmol/L, respectively) and Western-type high-fat diet (eg, after 2 weeks of fat diet, 45.9 and 42.6 versus 30.2 mmol/L, respectively). Cholesterol and triglyceride levels in very-low-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein fractions were increased. Atherosclerotic lesions in young and intermediate cohorts of sVEGFR3×LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100 mice progressed faster than in control mice (eg, intermediate cohort mice at 6 weeks, 18.3% versus 7.7% of the whole aorta, respectively). In addition, lesions in sVEGFR3×LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100 mice and Chy×LDLR−/−/ApoB100/100 mice had much less lymphatic vessels than lesions in control mice (0.33% and 1.07% versus 7.45% of podoplanin-positive vessels, respectively).


We show a novel finding linking impaired lymphatic vessels to lipoprotein metabolism, increased plasma cholesterol levels, and enhanced atherogenesis.

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