Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.
The lymphatic system is essential for fluid homeostasis, immune responses, and fat absorption, and is involved in many pathological processes, including tumor metastasis and lymphedema. Despite its importance, progress in understanding the origins and early development of this system has been hampered by lack of defining molecular markers and difficulties in observing lymphatic cells in vivo and performing genetic and experimental manipulation of the lymphatic system. Recent identification of new molecular markers, new genes with important functional roles in lymphatic development, and new experimental models for studying lymphangiogenesis has begun to yield important insights into the emergence and assembly of this important tissue. This review focuses on the mechanisms regulating development of the lymphatic vasculature during embryogenesis. Birth Defects Research (Part C)