Impact of Acute Aerobic Exercise on Genome-Wide DNA-Methylation in Natural Killer Cells-A Pilot Study

Genes (Basel). 2019 May 19;10(5):380. doi: 10.3390/genes10050380.


Natural Killer (NK-) cells reveal a keen reaction to acute bouts of exercise, including changes of epigenetic modifications. So far, exercise-induced alterations in NK-cell DNA-methylation were shown for single genes only. Studies analyzing genome-wide DNA-methylation have used conglomerates like peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) rather than specific subsets of immune cells. Therefore, the aim of this pilot-study was to generate first insights into the influence of a single bout of exercise on genome-wide DNA-methylation in isolated NK-cells to open the field for such analyses. Five healthy women performed an incremental step test and blood samples were taken before and after exercise. DNA was isolated from magnet bead sorted NK-cells and further analyzed for global DNA-methylation using the Infinium MethylationEPIC BeadChip. DNA-methylation was changed at 33 targets after acute exercise. These targets were annotated to 25 genes. Of the targets, 19 showed decreased and 14 increased methylation. The 25 genes with altered DNA-methylation have different roles in cell regulation and differ in their molecular functions. These data give new insights in the exercise induced regulation of NK-cells. By using isolated NK-cells, exercise induced differences in DNA-methylation could be shown. Whether or not these changes lead to functional adaptions needs to be elucidated.

Keywords: DNA-methylation; NK; epigenetics; exercise; natural killer cell; sport.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects


  • DNA