Enhanced lymph vessel density, remodeling, and inflammation are reflected by gene expression signatures in dermal lymphatic endothelial cells in type 2 diabetes.

PMID 23423575


Type 2 diabetes is associated with microvascular damage that causes frequent infections in the skin and chronic ulcers as a result of impaired wound healing. To trace the pathological changes, we performed a comprehensive analysis of lymphatic vessels in the skin of type 2 diabetic versus nondiabetic patients. The dermis revealed enhanced lymphatic vessel density, and transcriptional profiling of ex vivo isolated lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) identified 160 genes differentially expressed between type 2 diabetic and nondiabetic LECs. Bioinformatic analysis of deregulated genes uncovered sets functionally related to inflammation, lymphatic vessel remodeling, lymphangiogenesis, and lipid and small molecule transport. Furthermore, we traced CD68(+) macrophage accumulation and concomitant upregulation of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) levels in type 2 diabetic skin. TNF-α treatment of LECs and its specific blockade in vitro reproduced differential regulation of a gene set that led to enhanced LEC mobility and macrophage attachment, which was mediated by the LEC-derived chemokine CXCL10. This study identifies lymph vessel gene signatures directly correlated with type 2 diabetes skin manifestations. In addition, we provide evidence for paracrine cross-talk fostering macrophage recruitment to LECs as one pathophysiological process that might contribute to aberrant lymphangiogenesis and persistent inflammation in the skin.