High-Salt Diet Causes Expansion of the Lymphatic Network and Increased Lymph Flow in Skin and Muscle of Rats

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Objective—A commonly accepted pivotal mechanism in fluid volume and blood pressure regulation is the parallel relationship between body Na+ and extracellular fluid content. Several recent studies have, however, shown that a considerable amount of Na+ can be retained in skin without commensurate water retention. Here, we asked whether a salt accumulation shown to result in VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor)-C secretion and lymphangiogenesis had any influence on lymphatic function.Approach and Results—By optical imaging of macromolecular tracer washout in skin, we found that salt accumulation resulted in an increase in lymph flow of 26% that was noticeable only after including an overnight recording period. Surprisingly, lymph flow in skeletal muscle recorded with a new positron emission tomography/computed tomography method was also increased after salt exposure. The transcapillary filtration was unaffected by the high-salt diet and deoxycorticosterone-salt treatment, suggesting that the capillary barrier was not influenced by the salt accumulation. A significant reduction in lymph flow after depletion of macrophages/monocytes by clodronate suggests these cells are involved in the observed lymph flow response, together with collecting vessels shown here to enhance their contraction frequency as a response to extracellular Na+.Conclusions—The observed changes in lymph flow suggest that the lymphatics may influence long-term regulation of tissue fluid balance during salt accumulation by contributing to fluid homeostasis in skin and muscle. Our studies identify lymph clearance as a potential disease-modifying factor that might be targeted in conditions characterized by salt accumulation like chronic kidney disease and salt-sensitive hypertension.

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