Acute aerobic exercise induces a preferential mobilisation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells into the peripheral blood in man.

Frankie F. Brown, John P. Campbell, Alex J. Wadley, James P. Fisher, Sarah Aldred, James E. Turner

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Dendritic cells (DCs) are important sentinel cells of the immune system responsible for presenting antigen to T cells. Exercise is known to cause an acute and transient increase in the frequency of DCs in the bloodstream in humans, yet there are contradictory findings in the literature regarding the phenotypic composition of DCs mobilised during exercise, which may have implications for immune regulation and health. Accordingly, we sought to investigate the composition of DC sub-populations mobilised in response to acute aerobic exercise. Nine healthy males (age, 21.9 ± 3.6 years; height, 177.8 ± 5.4 cm; body mass, 78.9 ± 10.8 kg; body mass index, 24.9 ± 3.3 kg·m 2; V̇O 2 MAX, 41.5 ± 5.1 mL·kg·min −1) cycled for 20 min at 80% V̇O 2 MAX. Blood was sampled at baseline, during the final minute of exercise and 30 min later. Using flow cytometry, total DCs were defined as Lineage− (CD3, CD19, CD20, CD14, CD56) HLA-DR+ and subsequently identified as plasmacytoid DCs (CD303+) and myeloid DCs (CD303−). Myeloid DCs were analysed for expression of CD1c and CD141 to yield four sub-populations; CD1c−CD141+; CD1c+CD141+; CD1c+CD141− and CD1c−CD141−. Expression of CD205 was also analysed on all DC sub-populations to identify DCs capable of recognising apoptotic and necrotic cells. Total DCs increased by 150% during exercise (F (1,10) = 60; p < 0.05, η 2 = 0.9). Plasmacytoid DCs mobilised to a greater magnitude than myeloid DCs (195 ± 131% vs. 131 ± 100%; p < 0.05). Among myeloid DCs, CD1c−CD141− cells showed the largest exercise-induced mobilisation (167 ± 122%), with a stepwise pattern observed among the remaining sub-populations: CD1c+CD141− (79 ± 50%), followed by CD1c+CD141+ (44 ± 41%), with the smallest response shown by CD1c−CD141+ cells (23 ± 54%) (p < 0.05). Among myeloid DCs, CD205− cells were the most exercise responsive. All DC subsets returned to resting levels within 30 min of exercise cessation. These results show that there is a preferential mobilisation of plasmacytoid DCs during exercise. Given the functional repertoire of plasmacytoid DCs, which includes the production of interferons against viral and bacterial pathogens, these findings indicate that exercise may augment immune-surveillance by preferentially mobilising effector cells; these findings have general implications for the promotion of exercise for health, and specifically for the optimisation of DC harvest for cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-198
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Dendritic cells
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Myeloid
  • Plasmacytoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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