TGF-β1 is a negative regulator of lymphatic regeneration during wound repair
Transforming Growth Factor beta1
Although clinical studies have identified scarring/fibrosis as significant risk factors for lymphedema, the mechanisms by which lymphatic repair is impaired remain unknown. Transforming growth factor -beta1 (TGF-beta1) is a critical regulator of tissue fibrosis/scarring and may therefore also play a role in the regulation of lymphatic regeneration. The purpose of this study was therefore to assess the role of TGF-beta1 on scarring/fibrosis and lymphatic regeneration in a mouse tail model. Acute lymphedema was induced in mouse tails by full-thickness skin excision and lymphatic ligation. TGF-beta1 expression and scarring were modulated by repairing the wounds with or without a topical collagen gel. Lymphatic function and histological analyses were performed at various time points. Finally, the effects of TGF-beta1 on lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) in vitro were evaluated. As a result, the wound repair with collagen gel significantly reduced the expression of TGF-beta1, decreased scarring/fibrosis, and significantly accelerated lymphatic regeneration. The addition of recombinant TGF-beta1 to the collagen gel negated these effects. The improved lymphatic regeneration secondary to TGF-beta1 inhibition was associated with increased infiltration and proliferation of LECs and macrophages. TGF-beta1 caused a dose-dependent significant decrease in cellular proliferation and tubule formation of isolated LECs without changes in the expression of VEGF-C/D. Finally, the increased expression of TGF-beta1 during wound repair resulted in lymphatic fibrosis and the coexpression of alpha-smooth muscle actin and lymphatic vessel endothelial receptor-1 in regenerated lymphatics. In conclusion, the inhibition of TGF-beta1 expression significantly accelerates lymphatic regeneration during wound healing. An increased TGF-beta1 expression inhibits LEC proliferation and function and promotes lymphatic fibrosis. These findings imply that the clinical interventions that diminish TGF-beta1 expression may be useful in promoting more rapid lymphatic regeneration.