Lymphologie in Forschung und Praxis, 17(2):96–104, December, 2013. Paper doi abstract bibtex
VEGF-C and VEGF-D are the two central signaling molecules that stimulate the develop- ment and growth of the lymphatic system. Both belong to the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) protein family, which plays important roles in the growth of blood vessels (angiogenesis) and lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis). In mammals, the VEGF family comprises five members: VEGF-A, PlGF, VEGF-B, VEGF-C and VEGF-D. The family was named after VEGF-A, the first member to be discovered. VEGF-C and VEGF-D form a subgroup within this family in terms of function and structure. Their distinctive biosynthesis differentiates them from the other VEGFs: they are produced as inactive precursors and need to be activated by proteolytic removal of their long N- and C-terminal propeptides. Unlike the other VEGFs, VEGF-C and VEGF-D are direct stimulators of lymphatic vessel growth. They exert their lymphangiogenic function via VEGF receptor 3, which is expressed in the adult organism almost exclusively on lymphatic endothelial cells. In this review, we provide an overview of the VEGF protein family and their receptors. We focus on the lymphangiogenic VEGF-C and VEGF-D, discussing their biosynthesis and their role in embryonic lymphangiogenesis.