Acute exercise stimulates macrophage function: possible role of NF-kappaB pathways

Cell Biochem Funct. Jan-Feb 2007;25(1):63-73. doi: 10.1002/cbf.1365.


Moderate physical activity when performed on a regular basis presents a number of benefits to the whole organism, especially regarding immune system function, such as augmenting resistance to infections and to cancer growth. Although glutamine production by active muscle cells as well as neuroendocrine alterations mediated by the chronic adaptation to exercise may play a role, the entire mechanism by which exercise makes the immune system aware of challenges remains mostly uncovered. This is particularly true for the effects of an acute exercise session on immune function. In this work, circulating monocytes/macrophages from sedentary rats submitted to an acute (1 h) swimming session were tested for the ability of phagocytosing zymosan particles, phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)-induced hydrogen peroxide production, nitric oxide (NO) release (assessed by nitrate and nitrite production) and the expression of NO synthases (NOS-1, NOS-2 and NOS-3). The results showed that an exercise bout induced a 2.4-fold rise in macrophage phagocytic capacity (p = 0.0041), a 9.6-fold elevation in PMA-induced hydrogen peroxide release into the incubation media (1-h, p = 0.0022) and a 95.5%-augmentation in nitrite basal production (1-h incubation; p = 0.0220), which was associated with a marked expression of NOS-2 (the inducible NOS isoform; p = 0.0319), but not in other NOS gene products. Although NOS-2 expression is nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB)-dependent, no systemic oxidative stress was found, as inferred from the data of plasma TBARS and glutathione disulphide (GSSG) to glutathione (GSH) ratio in circulating blood erythrocytes which remained constant after the acute exercise. Also, no stressful situation seemed to be faced by monocytes/macrophages, since the expression of the 70-kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) remained unchanged. We conclude that NF-kappaB-dependent induction of NOS-2 and macrophage activation must be related to local factor(s) produced in the surroundings of monocytes/macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Male
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Nitrites / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phagocytes
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Time Factors


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase