Composition of lymph

All plasma proteins are found in lymph. The protein concentration of lymph from all parts of the alimentary tract tends to be high; e.g. thoracic duct lymph has a protein concentration of 66% of that of serum. Lymph contains relatively less of the larger proteins compared to plasma, suggesting that molecular size is important in lymph filtration. Materials with a molecular weight of less than 10,000 are found in similar concentrations in both lymph and plasma. Additional proteins, mainly immunoglobulins, are added to the lymph on passage through the lymph nodes. Finally, lymph also contains reticulo-endothelial cells (lymphocytes) to destroy bacteria.

Lymph contains all the coagulation factors found in the blood, but it clots less readily. The electrolyte composition is very similar. Cholesterol and phospholipids in lymph are mainly associated with protein as lipoprotein, and together with triglycerides synthesised in the enterocytes form submicrometer droplets known as chylomicrons. This renders the triglycerides water-miscible. The concentration of chylomicrons varies with the amount of protein present in the lymph. The amount of neutral fat in the chylomicrons depends upon the degree of absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. Immediately after meals there are large quantities of lipoproteins and fats in the lymph which have been taken up from the gastrointestinal tract, but this drops to a low level between meals.

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