The present study was designed to examine the effect of physical exercise on human natural killer (NK) cells. Six healthy volunteers underwent two different acute physical exercise tests with an interval of at least 1 week: (1) 60min bicycle exercise at 80% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and (2) 60 min back‐muscle training at up to 29% of VO2max; blood samples were collected before and during the last few minutes of exercise, as well as 2 h and 24 h afterwards. The NK cell activity (lysis/fixed number of mononuclear cells) increased during bicycle exercise, dropped to a minimum 2 h later and returned to pre‐exercise levels within 24 h. Back‐muscle exercise did not significantly influence NK cell activity. Plasma levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol were elevated during bicycling, but not during back‐muscle exercise, indicating that exercise intensity is a determinant of NK cell activity. During bicycle exercise the NK cell subset (CD 16+ cells) of mononuclear cells increased significantly. Furthermore an improved interleukin 2 (IL‐2) boosting of the NK cell activity was found during work as compared to IFN‐α and indomethacin‐enhanced NK cell activity. These results indicate that NK cells with a high IL‐2 response capacity are recruited to the peripheral blood during exercise. The decreased NK cell activity demonstrated 2 h after work was probably not due to fluctuations in size of the NK cell pool, since the proportion of CD16+ cells was normal. The finding that indomethacin fully restored the suppressed NK cell activity in vitro and the demonstration of a twofold increase in monocyte (CD20+ cells) proportions 2 h after work, strongly indicate that prostaglandins released by monocytes during the heavy physical exercise are responsible for the down‐regulation of the NK cells.
Scandinavian Journal of Immunology – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 1988
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