Number and function of circulating human antigen presenting cells regulated by sleep

Sleep. 2007 Apr;30(4):401-11. doi: 10.1093/sleep/30.4.401.


Study objectives: There is evidence that sleep facilitates the adaptive immune response to infectious agents and, thereby, supports immunologic memory. The effect might be attained by sleep-induced changes in the number and function of dendritic cells (DCs), which play a key role in the initiation of the immune response. This study aimed to dissociate effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on circulating numbers of DC precursors, ie, CD14+CD16- and CD14(dim)CD16+ monocytes, myeloid dendritic cell precursors (pre-mDC), and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDC) and on 2 key cytokines produced by these cells, ie, interleukin (IL)-12 and interferon (IFN)-alpha.

Design: In a within-subject cross-over design, human subjects were examined on 2 occasions, ie, during a normal sleep-wake cycle and during 24 hours of wakefulness. Blood was sampled every 1.5 hours during nighttime and every 3 hours during daytime.

Setting: Experiments took place under controlled laboratory conditions.

Participants: Twenty-seven healthy men aged between 18 and 30 years.

Measurements and results: Compared with wakefulness, sleep was associated with a striking increase in the number of pre-mDC producing IL-12, which is a main inducer of Th1 responses. In addition, sleep slightly decreased PDC and also T cell counts but did not affect IFN-alpha production by PDC. Sleep, however, substantially decreased numbers of CD14(dim)CD16+ monocytes, probably reflecting increased margination of the cells upon a sleep-related drop in catecholamine release.

Conclusions: Our data identify pre-mDC producing IL-12 as a basic target of sleep that is most closely related to mature APC function and whereby sleep can effectively enhance adaptive immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Active / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Interferon-alpha / blood
  • Interleukin-12 / blood
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep / immunology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / immunology
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Interferon-alpha
  • Interleukin-12