Entry to the afferent lymphatics marks the first committed step for immune cell migration from tissues to draining lymph nodes both for the generation of immune responses and for timely resolution of tissue inflammation. This critical process occurs primarily at specialised discontinuous junctions in initial lymphatic capillaries, directed by chemokines released from lymphatic endothelium and orchestrated by adhesion between lymphatic receptors and their immune cell ligands. Prominent amongst the latter is the large glycosaminoglycan hyaluronan (HA) that can form a bulky glycocalyx on the surface of certain tissue-migrating leucocytes and whose engagement with its key lymphatic receptor LYVE-1 mediates docking and entry of dendritic cells to afferent lymphatics. Here we outline the latest insights into the molecular mechanisms by which the HA glycocalyx together with LYVE-1 and the related leucocyte receptor CD44 co-operate in immune cell entry, and how the process is facilitated by the unusual character of LYVE-1 • HA-binding interactions. In addition, we describe how pro-inflammatory breakdown products of HA may also contribute to lymphatic entry by transducing signals through LYVE-1 for lymphangiogenesis and increased junctional permeability. Lastly, we outline some future perspectives and highlight the LYVE-1 • HA axis as a potential target for immunotherapy.
CD44, LYVE-1, T cell, dendritic cell, glycocalyx, hyaluronan, immune cell, lymphatic endothelium, macrophage, trafficking