Exercise reduces inflammatory cell production and cardiovascular inflammation via instruction of hematopoietic progenitor cells

Nat Med. 2019 Nov;25(11):1761-1771. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0633-x. Epub 2019 Nov 7.


A sedentary lifestyle, chronic inflammation and leukocytosis increase atherosclerosis; however, it remains unclear whether regular physical activity influences leukocyte production. Here we show that voluntary running decreases hematopoietic activity in mice. Exercise protects mice and humans with atherosclerosis from chronic leukocytosis but does not compromise emergency hematopoiesis in mice. Mechanistically, exercise diminishes leptin production in adipose tissue, augmenting quiescence-promoting hematopoietic niche factors in leptin-receptor-positive stromal bone marrow cells. Induced deletion of the leptin receptor in Prrx1-creERT2; Leprfl/fl mice reveals that leptin's effect on bone marrow niche cells regulates hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) proliferation and leukocyte production, as well as cardiovascular inflammation and outcomes. Whereas running wheel withdrawal quickly reverses leptin levels, the impact of exercise on leukocyte production and on the HSPC epigenome and transcriptome persists for several weeks. Together, these data show that physical activity alters HSPCs via modulation of their niche, reducing hematopoietic output of inflammatory leukocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Atherosclerosis / therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Epigenome / genetics
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics
  • Hematopoiesis / physiology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Leukocytosis / physiopathology
  • Leukocytosis / therapy
  • Mice
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Receptors, Leptin / genetics
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Prrx1 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • leptin receptor, mouse