The lymphatics in kidney health and disease

Michael D. Donnan, Yael Kenig-Kozlovsky, Susan E. Quaggin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The mammalian vascular system consists of two networks: the blood vascular system and the lymphatic vascular system. Throughout the body, the lymphatic system contributes to homeostatic mechanisms by draining extravasated interstitial fluid and facilitating the trafficking and activation of immune cells. In the kidney, lymphatic vessels exist mainly in the kidney cortex. In the medulla, the ascending vasa recta represent a hybrid lymphatic-like vessel that performs lymphatic-like roles in interstitial fluid reabsorption. Although the lymphatic network is mainly derived from the venous system, evidence supports the existence of lymphatic beds that are of non-venous origin. Following their development and maturation, lymphatic vessel density remains relatively stable; however, these vessels undergo dynamic functional changes to meet tissue demands. Additionally, new lymphatic growth, or lymphangiogenesis, can be induced by pathological conditions such as tissue injury, interstitial fluid overload, hyperglycaemia and inflammation. Lymphangiogenesis is also associated with conditions such as polycystic kidney disease, hypertension, ultrafiltration failure and transplant rejection. Although lymphangiogenesis has protective functions in clearing accumulated fluid and immune cells, the kidney lymphatics may also propagate an inflammatory feedback loop, exacerbating inflammation and fibrosis. Greater understanding of lymphatic biology, including the developmental origin and function of the lymphatics and their response to pathogenic stimuli, may aid the development of new therapeutic agents that target the lymphatic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-675
Number of pages21
JournalNature Reviews Nephrology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


Dive into the research topics of 'The lymphatics in kidney health and disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this