Circadian rhythm of leucocytes and lymphocytes subsets and its possible correlation with the function of the autonomic nervous system

Clin Exp Immunol. 1997 Dec;110(3):500-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2249.1997.4411460.x.


There are physiological variations in the levels of leucocytes. Among these, the circadian rhythm is very important in terms of the magnitude. Since newly identified lymphocyte subsets (i.e. extrathymic T cells) have recently been detected, a comprehensive study of the circadian rhythm was conducted. All leucocytes were found to vary in number or proportion with a circadian rhythm and were classified into two groups. One group--granulocytes, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, extrathymic T cells, gammadelta T cells, and CD8+ subset--showed an increase in the daytime (i.e. daytime rhythm). The other group--T cells, B cells, alphabeta T cells, and CD4+ subset--showed an increase at night. Humans are active and show sympathetic nerve dominance in the daytime. Interestingly, granulocytes and lymphocyte subsets with the daytime rhythm were found to carry a high density of adrenergic receptors. On the other hand, lymphocyte subsets with the night rhythm carried a high proportion of cholinergic receptors. Reflecting this situation, exercise prominently increased the number of cells with the daytime rhythm. These results suggest that the levels of leucocytes may be under the regulation of the autonomic nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Catecholamines / blood
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets* / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Adrenergic / analysis
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / analysis


  • Catecholamines
  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Receptors, Cholinergic