Thymic blood and lymphatic vessels in humans and laboratory animals have been investigated in morphological studies. However, occasionally a clear distinction between blood vessels and lymphatic vessels cannot be made from morphological characteristics of the vasculature. To visualize thymic lymphatics in normal adult BALB/c mice, we used antibodies against specific markers of lymphatic endothelial cells. Expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 (VEGFR-3) was detected throughout the thymus, i.e., the capsule, cortex, and medulla. Most thymic lymphatics were present in capillaries of ∼20 μm in caliber. The plexuses of lymphatic capillaries were occasionally detectable. Lymphatic vessels were frequently adjacent to CD31-positive blood vessels, and some lymphatic vessels were seen in the immediate vicinity of or within the perivascular spaces around postcapillary venules. The identity of VEGFR-3-positive vessels as lymphatics was further confirmed by staining with additional markers: LYVE-1, Prox-1, neuropilin-2, and secondary lymphoid tissue chemokine (SLC). The distributions of LYVE-1 were similar to those of VEGFR-3. Most lymphatic vessels were also identified by Prox-1. Neuropilin-2 was restricted to lymphatic vessels in the thymus. The most abundant expression of SLC in the thymus was in medullar epithelial cells; SLC was also expressed in lymphatic vessels and blood vessels. Thus, lymphatic endothelium in mouse thymus was characterized by positive staining with antibodies to VEGFR-3, LYVE-1, Prox-1, neuropilin-2, or SLC, but not with an antibody to CD31. Our results suggest the presence of lymphatic capillary networks throughout the thymus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Cell Biology