Organ-specific lymphatics play distinct roles in regulating HDL trafficking and composition

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Recently, peripheral lymphatic vessels were found to transport high-density lipoprotein (HDL) from interstitial tissues to the blood circulation during reverse cholesterol transport. This function is thought to be critical to the clearance of cholesterol from atherosclerotic plaques. The role of organ-specific lymphatics in modulating HDL transport and composition is, however, incompletely understood. This study aimed to 1) determine the contribution of the lymphatics draining the intestine and liver (which are major sites of HDL synthesis) to total (thoracic) lymph HDL transport and 2) verify whether the HDLs in lymph are derived from specific organs and are modified during trafficking in lymph. The mesenteric, hepatic, or thoracic lymph duct was cannulated in nonfasted Sprague-Dawley rats, and lymph was collected over 5 h under anesthesia. Whole lymph and specific lymph lipoproteins (isolated by ultracentrifugation) were analyzed for protein and lipid composition. The majority of thoracic lymph fluid, protein, and lipid mass was sourced from the mesenteric, and to a lesser extent, hepatic lymph. Mesenteric and thoracic lymph were both rich in chylomicrons and very low-density lipoprotein, whereas hepatic lymph and plasma were HDL-rich. The protein and lipid mass in thoracic lymph HDL was mostly sourced from mesenteric lymph, whereas the cholesterol mass was equally sourced from mesenteric and hepatic lymph. HDLs were compositionally distinct across the lymph sources and plasma. The composition of HDL also appeared to be modified during passage from the mesenteric and hepatic to the thoracic lymph duct. Overall, this study demonstrates that the lipoproteins in lymph are organ specific in composition, and the intestine and liver appear to be the main source of HDL in the lymph.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G725-G735
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Cholesterol transport
  • Hepatic lymph
  • High density lipoprotein
  • Lipid transport
  • Mesenteric lymph
  • Thoracic lymph

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