Acute psychological stress alerts the adaptive immune response: stress-induced mobilization of effector T cells

J Neuroimmunol. 2006 Jul;176(1-2):141-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2006.03.023. Epub 2006 May 18.


Influences of psychological stress on the acquired immune system have not consequently been investigated. We found acute psychological stress to cause an increase in CD56+ and CCR5+ effector T cells in the peripheral blood of healthy human subjects (N=22), while skin-homing CLA+ T cells decreased. At the same time, we observed a stress-induced decrease in CD45RA+/CCR7+ naive and CD45RA-/CCR7+ central memory T cells, while CD45RA-/CCR7- effector memory and CD45RA+/CCR7- terminally differentiated T cells increased. This T cell redistribution translated into an increase in T cells expressing perforin/granzyme B and in Epstein-Barr virus-specific, cytomegalovirus-specific and influenza virus-specific CD8+ T cells. Thus, acute stress seems to promote the retention of less mature T cells within lymphoid tissue or skin while effector-type T cells are mobilized into the blood in order to be able to rapidly migrate into peripheral tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / analysis
  • CD56 Antigen / analysis
  • Cell Movement
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / analysis
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / analysis
  • Receptors, CCR5 / analysis
  • Receptors, CCR7
  • Receptors, Chemokine / analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • CCR7 protein, human
  • CD56 Antigen
  • CTAGE1 protein, human
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, CCR5
  • Receptors, CCR7
  • Receptors, Chemokine
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens