Department of Surgery, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California, 1450 Biggy St. NRT6501, Mail Code 9601, Los Angeles, CA, 90033, USA.
Lymphedema is mainly caused by lymphatic obstruction and manifested as tissue swelling, often in the arms and legs.Lymphedema is one of the most common post-surgical complications in breast cancer patients and presents a painful and disfiguring chronic illness that has few treatment options. Here, we evaluated the therapeutic potential of interleukin (IL)-8 in lymphatic regeneration independent of its pro-inflammatory activity. We found that IL-8 promoted proliferation, tube formation, and migration of lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) without activating the VEGF signaling.
Additionally, IL-8 suppressed the major cell cycle inhibitor CDKN1C/p57(KIP2) by downregulating its positive regulator PROX1, which is known as the master regulator of LEC-differentiation. Animal-based studies such as matrigel plug and cornea micropocket assays demonstrated potent efficacy of IL-8 in activating lymphangiogenesis in vivo.
Moreover, we have generated a novel transgenic mouse model (K14-hIL8) that expresses human IL-8 in the skin and then crossed with lymphatic-specific fluorescent (Prox1-GFP) mouse. The resulting double transgenic mice showed that a stable expression of IL-8 could promote embryonic lymphangiogenesis. Moreover, an immunodeficient IL-8-expressing mouse line that was established by crossing K14-hIL8 mice with athymic nude mice displayed an enhanced tumor-associated lymphangiogenesis.
Finally, when experimental lymphedema was introduced, K14-hIL8 mice showed an improved amelioration of lymphedema with an increased lymphatic regeneration. Together, we report that IL-8 can activate lymphangiogenesis in vitro and in vivo with a therapeutic efficacy in post-surgical lymphedema.