To test the hypothesis of whether strenuous physical exercise inhibits neutrophils that can get activated by hypobaric hypoxia, we analyzed the effects of both high altitude and strenuous exercise alone and in combination on potentially cytotoxic functions of granulocytes in healthy volunteers ( n = 12 men; average age 27.6 yr; range 24–38 yr). To this end, a field study was prospectively performed with an open-labeled within-subject design comprising three protocols. Protocol I (high altitude) involved a helicopter ascent, overnight stay at 3,196 m, and descent on the following day. Protocol II (physical exercise) involved hiking below an altitude of 2,100 m with repetitive ascents amounting to a total ascent to that of protocol III . Protocol III (combination of physical exercise and high altitude) involved climbing from 1,416 to 3,196 m, stay overnight, and descent on the following day. In protocol I , number of granulocytes did not change, but potentially cytotoxic functions of cells (CD18 expression and superoxide production) were early and significantly upregulated. In protocol II , subjects developed granulocytosis, but functions of cells were inhibited. In protocol III , granulocytosis occurred at higher values than those observed under protocol II . Potentially cytotoxic functions of cells, however, were strongly inhibited again. In conclusion, high altitude alone, even moderate in extent, can activate potentially cytotoxic functions of circulating granulocytes. Strenuous physical exercise strongly inhibits this activation, which may give protection from an otherwise inflammatory injury. mountain; polymorphonuclear neutrophil leukocytes; purines; inflammation Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: M. Thiel, Clinic of Anaesthesiology, Klinikum Grosshadern, Marchioninistr. 15, D-81377 Munich, Germany (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Journal of Applied Physiology – The American Physiological Society
Published: Feb 1, 2005
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