Acute, but not chronic, aerobic exercise alters the impact of ex vivo LDL and fatty acid stimulation on monocytes and macrophages from healthy, young adults

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2023 May;123(5):975-988. doi: 10.1007/s00421-022-05131-x. Epub 2023 Jan 6.


Background: Elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglyceride concentrations are associated with future cardiovascular risk in young adults. Conversely, chronic physical activity is generally accepted to reduce CVD risk. Atherosclerosis is a major underlying cause of CVD, and atherogenesis is mediated by peripheral monocytes and monocyte-derived macrophages. The study aimed to determine if an individual's physical activity level impacts the phenotype of monocytes and monocyte-derived macrophages when stimulated with LDL and fatty acid ex vivo.

Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were obtained from healthy, young adults of differing physical activity levels before and after a single bout of moderate intensity exercise (25 min at 60% of VO2peak). PBMCs were stimulated with LDL and palmitate ex vivo prior to differentiation into macrophages. Monocyte subset percentages and monocyte-derived macrophage expression of phenotypic (CD86, CD206) and functional (CCR2, ERK 1/2) markers were evaluated by flow cytometry.

Results: Compared to baseline, ex vivo LDL and palmitate stimulation decreased (p = 0.038) non-classical monocyte percentage from 24.7 ± 3.2 to 21.5 ± 2.6% in all participants. When ex vivo lipid stimulation was preceded by acute exercise, non-classical monocyte percentage was similar to baseline levels (p = 0.670, 25.8 ± 2.15%). Macrophage CD86/CD206 was increased from 1.30 ± 0.14 to 1.68 ± 0.19 when preceded by acute exercise in all participants. No differences were observed between participants of differing physical activity levels.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that acute exercise modulates monocyte phenotype after LDL and palmitate stimulation in a protective manner, however, chronic physical activity does not alter monocyte/macrophage responses to any experimental condition in this population.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Dyslipidemia; Exercise; LDL; Macrophages; Monocyte.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Monocytes* / metabolism


  • Lipoproteins, LDL