The discovery of dural lymphatics has spurred interest in the mechanisms of drainage of interstitial fluid from the CNS, the anatomical components involved in clearance of macromolecules from the brain, mechanisms of entry and exit of immune components, and how these pathways may be involved in neurodegenerative diseases and cancer metastasis. In this study the authors describe connections between a subset of arachnoid granulations (AGs) and the venous circulation via intradural vascular channels (IVCs), which stain positively with established lymphatic markers. The authors postulate that the AGs may serve as a component of the human brain’s lymphatic system.
AGs and IVCs were examined by high-resolution dissection under stereoscope bilaterally in 8 fresh and formalin-fixed human cadaveric heads. The superior sagittal sinus (SSS) and adjacent dura mater were immunostained with antibodies against Lyve-1 (lymphatic marker), podoplanin (lymphatic marker), CD45 (panhematopoietic marker), and DAPI (nuclear marker).
AGs can be classified as intradural or interdural, depending on their location and site of drainage. Interdural AGs are distinct from the dura, adhere to arachnoid membranes, and occasionally open directly in the inferolateral wall or floor of the SSS, although some cross the infradural folds of the dura’s inner layer to meet with intradural AGs and IVCs. Intradural AGs are located within the leaflets of the dura. The total number of openings from the AGs, lateral lacunae, and cortical veins into the SSS was 45 ± 5.62 per head. On average each cadaveric head contained 6 ± 1.30 intradural AGs. Some intradural AGs do not directly open into the SSS and use IVCs to connect to the venous circulation. Using immunostaining methods, the authors demonstrate that these tubular channels stain positively with vascular and lymphatic markers (Lyve-1, podoplanin).
AGs consist of two subtypes with differing modes of drainage into the SSS. A subset of AGs located intradurally use tubular channels, which stain positively with vascular and lymphatic markers to connect to the venous lacunae and ultimately to the SSS. The present study suggests that AGs may function as a component of brain lymphatics. This finding has important clinical implications for cancer metastasis to and from the CNS and may shed light on mechanisms of altered clearance of macromolecules in the setting of neurodegenerative diseases.