Dermal collagen and lipid deposition correlate with tissue swelling and hydraulic conductivity in murine primary lymphedema
Primary lymphedema is a congenital pathology of dysfunctional lymphatic drainage characterized by swelling of the limbs, thickening of the dermis, and fluid and lipid accumulation in the underlying tissue. Two mouse models of primary lymphedema, the Chy mouse and the K14-VEGFR-3-Ig mouse, both lack dermal lymphatic capillaries and exhibit a lymphedematous phenotype attributable to disrupted VEGFR-3 signaling. Here we show that the differences in edematous tissue composition between these two models correlated with drastic differences in hydraulic conductivity. The skin of Chy mice possessed significantly higher levels of collagen and fat, whereas K14-VEGFR-3-Ig mouse skin composition was relatively normal, as compared with their respective wild-type controls. Functionally, this resulted in a greatly increased dermal hydraulic conductivity in K14-VEGFR3-Ig, but not Chy, mice. Our data suggest that lymphedema associated with increased collagen and lipid accumulation counteracts an increased hydraulic conductivity associated with dermal swelling, which in turn further limits interstitial transport and swelling. Without lipid and collagen accumulation, hydraulic conductivity is increased and overall swelling is minimized. These opposing tissue responses to primary lymphedema imply that tissue remodeling - predominantly collagen and fat deposition - may dictate tissue swelling and govern interstitial transport in lymphedema. Copyright © American Society for Investigative Pathology.