Mobilization of gammadelta T lymphocytes in response to psychological stress, exercise, and beta-agonist infusion

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The mobilization of cytotoxic lymphocytes, such Natural Killer (NK) cells and CD8+ T cells, during stress and exercise is well documented in humans. However, humans have another cytotoxic lymphocyte subset that has not been studied in this context: the Gamma Delta (gammadelta)T lymphocyte. These cells play key roles in immune processes including the elimination of bacterial infection, wound repair and delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions. The current study investigated the effects of stress, exercise, and beta-agonist infusion on the mobilization of gammadelta T lymphocytes. Three separate studies compared lymphocytosis in response to an acute speech stress task (n =29), high (85%Wmax) and low (35%Wmax) intensity concentric exercise (n = 11), and isoproterenol infusion at 20ng/min/kg and 40ng/min/kg (n = 12). Flow cytometric analysis was used to examine lymphocyte subsets. gammadelta T lymphocytes were mobilized in response to all three tasks in a dose-dependent manner; the extent of mobilization during the speech task correlated with concomitant cardiac activation, and was greater during higher intensity exercise and increased dose of beta-agonist infusion. The mobilization of gammadelta T lymphocytes was greater (in terms of % change from baseline) than that of CD8+ T lymphocytes and less than NK cells. This study is the first to demonstrate that gammadelta T cells are stress-responsive lymphocytes which are mobilised during psychological stress, exercise, and beta-agonist infusion. The mobilization of these versatile cytotoxic cells may provide protection in the context of situations in which antigen exposure is more likely to occur.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-829
Number of pages7
JournalBrain, Behaviour, and Immunity
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2009


  • Sympathetic reactivity, Lymphocytosis, Adaptive immunity, T lymphocytes, Infusion, Exercise, Acute stress, Adrenergic, Isoproterenol, Innate immunity