Thermal stresses reduce natural killer cell cytotoxicity

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1995 Sep;79(3):732-7. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1995.79.3.732.


The effects of different ambient temperatures (Ta) on the splenic natural killer (NK) cell activity, effector-target cell conjugation activity, and NK cell numbers were assessed in male inbred C3H/HeNCrj mice (7-10 wk old). The splenic NK cytotoxic activities were examined in a 4-h 51Cr release assay in mouse spleen cells that were obtained 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16 days after exposure to Ta of 22, 4, or 35 degrees C. The percentage of conjugating lymphocytes was calculated by counting the number of single lymphocytes bound to single target cells per 400 effector cells. The numbers of NK cells were expressed by the percentage of 5E6-positive cells. The 5E6 identifies only a subset of NK cells. It was found that the splenic NK cell activity, the effector-target cell conjugation activity, or the NK cell number began to fall 1 day after cold (Ta 4 degrees C) or heat (Ta 35 degrees C) stress. After a 16-day period of either cold or heat exposure, the fall in the splenic NK cell activity, the effector-target cell conjugation activity, or the number of 5E6-positive subsets of NK cells was still evident. Compared with those of the control group (Ta 22 degrees C), the cold-stressed mice had higher adrenal cortisol concentration and lower colonic temperature, whereas the heat-stressed animals had higher adrenal cortisol concentration and higher colonic temperature during a 16-day period of thermal exposure. However, neither cold nor heat stress affected both the body weight gain and the spleen weight in our mice.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic*
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Organ Size
  • Random Allocation
  • Spleen / immunology*
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology*
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Epinephrine