4 years ago

Maximal exercise increases mucosal associated invariant T cell frequency and number in healthy young men

Nigel K. Stepto, Samy Sakkal, Erik D. Hanson, David B. Bartlett, Eli Danson, Jackson J. Fyfe, Catriona V. Nguyen-Robertson



Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells have properties of the innate and acquired immune systems. While the response to vigorous exercise has been established for most leukocytes, MAIT cells have not been investigated. Therefore, the purpose was to determine if MAIT cell lymphocytosis occurs with acute maximal aerobic exercise and if this response is influenced by exercise duration, cardiovascular fitness, or body composition.


Twenty healthy young males with moderate fitness levels performed an extended graded exercise test until volitional fatigue. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from venous blood obtained prior and immediately after exercise and were labeled to identify specific T cell populations using flow cytometry.


The percentage of MAIT cells relative to total T cells significantly increased from 3.0 to 3.8% and absolute MAIT cell counts increased by 2.2-fold following maximal exercise. MAIT cell subpopulation proportions were unchanged with exercise. Within cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), MAIT cells consisted of 8% of these cells and this remained constant after exercise. MAIT cell counts and changes with exercise were not affected by body composition, VO2peak, or exercise duration.


Maximal exercise doubled MAIT cell numbers and showed preferential mobilization within total T cells but the response was not influenced by fitness levels, exercise duration, or body composition. These results suggest that acute exercise could be used to offset MAIT cell deficiencies observed with certain pathologies. MAIT cells also make up a substantial proportion of CTLs, which may have implications for cytotoxicity assays using these cells.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-017-3704-z

DOI: 10.1007/s00421-017-3704-z

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