Mobilization of circulating leucocyte and lymphocyte subpopulations during and after short, anaerobic exercise

Holger Gabriel*, Axel Urhausen, Wilfried Kindermann

*Corresponding author for this work

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69 Citations (Scopus)


A group of 11 healthy athletes [age, 27.4 (SD 6.7) years; body mass, 75.3 (SD 9.2) kg; height, 182 (SD 8) cm; maximal oxygen uptake, 58.0 (SD 9.9) ml · kg-1 · min-1] conducted maximal exercise of 60-s duration on a cycle ergometer [mean exercise intensity, 520 (SD 72) W; maximal lactate concentration, 12.26 (SD 1.35) mmol · l-1]. Adrenaline and noradrenaline, and leucocyte subpopulations were measured flow cytometrically at rest, after 5-min warming up at 50% of each individual's anaerobic threshold (followed by 5-min rest), immediately after (0 min), 15 min, 30 min, and 1, 2, 4 and 24 h after exercise. Granulocytes showed two increases, the first at 15 min and, after return to pre-exercise values, the second more than 2 h after exercise. Eosinophils also increased at 15 min but decreased below pre-exercise values 2 h after exercise. Total lymphocytes and monocytes had their maximal increases at 0 min. Out of all lymphocyte subpopulations CD3-CD16/CD56+- and CD8S+ CD45RO--cells increased most and had their maximal cell counts at 0 min. The CD3+-, CD4+CD45RO+-, CD8+ CD45RO+-, and CD19+- increased at 0 min, but had their maximum at 15 min. During the hours after exercise CD3- CD16/CD56+-, CD3+CD16/CD56+-, CD8+CD45RO+- and CD8+ CD45RO--cells were responsible for the lymphocytopenia. The CD3+- and CD3- CD16/CD56+-cells were lower 24h after exercise than before exercise. Adrenaline and noradrenaline increased during exercise. In conclusion, short anaerobic exercise led to a sequential mobilization of leucocyte subpopulations. The rapid increase of natural killer cells and monocytes may have been due to increased blood flow and catecholamine concentrations. We interpreted from these results that those cells forming the first line of defence can be mobilized faster and disappear out of circulation more rapidly than all other cell populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Anaerobic exercise
  • Catecholamines
  • Lymphocyte subpopulations
  • Memory cells
  • Natural killer cells
  • Sequential mobilization


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