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No growth factors specific for the lymphatic vascular system have yet been described. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) regulates vascular permeability and angiogenesis, but does not promote lymphangiogenesis. Overexpression of VEGF-C, a ligand of the VEGF receptors VEGFR-3 and VEGFR-2, in the skin of transgenic mice resulted in lymphatic, but not vascular, endothelial proliferation and vessel enlargement. Thus, VEGF-C induces selective hyperplasia of the lymphatic vasculature, which is involved in the draining of interstitial fluid and in immune function, inflammation, and tumor metastasis. VEGF-C may play a role in disorders involving the lymphatic system and may be of potential use in therapeutic lymphangiogenesis.
↵* These authors contributed equally to this work.