Exercise-induced redistribution of T lymphocytes is regulated by adrenergic mechanisms

Brain Behav Immun. 2008 Mar;22(3):324-38. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2007.08.008. Epub 2007 Oct 1.


Acute exercise is known for causing considerable changes in leukocyte counts and function. In this paper we report that differentiated changes in T-lymphocyte distribution occur in lymphoid and non-lymphoid organs depending on the type and the intensity of exercise. Using fluorescent cell tracking we observed a release of T-cells from the spleen while lung, bone marrow and Peyer's patches served as target organs. The number of T-cells in the blood rose after intensive running while lymphopenia occurred after swimming exercise. Changes in number of labelled T-cells were neither found in the lymph nodes nor in the thymus regardless of exercise protocol. Following an alpha- or beta-blockade, the exercise-induced release of T-cells from the spleen and the accumulation of T-cells in the lung were inhibited while the enhancement of T-cells in the Peyer's patches was not affected. The administration of epinephrine partially mimicked the effects of exercise and resulted in a release of T-cells from both, the spleen and the liver, as well as in an increase of circulating blood T-cells. In conclusion, exercise induces a substantial re-distribution of T-cells within lymphoid and non-lymphoid organs. The migrating properties of T-cells could be partially explained by adrenergic mechanisms associated with exercise while the involvement of certain homing receptors remains to be shown. Our results suggest that the accumulation of T-cells in both, lung and Peyer's patches, may enhance the immune vigilance in these compartments which serve as the body's major defence barriers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / pharmacology
  • Peyer's Patches / cytology
  • Receptors, Adrenergic / metabolism*
  • Running / physiology
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Swimming / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine