Endurance Exercise Diverts the Balance between Th17 Cells and Regulatory T Cells

Chava Perry*, Marjorie Pick, Nir Bdolach, Inbal Hazan-Halevi, Sigi Kay, Idit Berr, Adi Reches, Yair Harishanu, Dan Grisaru

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Endurance, marathon-type exertion is known to induce adverse changes in the immune system. Increased airway hyper-responsiveness and airway inflammation are well documented in endurance athletes and endurance exercise is considered a major risk factor for asthma in elite athletes. Yet, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are still to be deduced. We studied the effect of strenuous endurance exercise (marathon and half-ironman triathlon) on CD4+ lymphocyte sub-populations and on the balance between effector and regulatory CD4+ lymphocytes in the peripheral blood of trained athletes, Endurance exercise induced a significant increase in Th17 cells and a sustained decrease in peripheral blood regulatory T cells (Tregs). While interleukin (IL)-2 levels remained undetectable, post-race serum IL-6 and transforming growth factor (TGF) β levels were significantly elevated. Treg levels in sedentary controls' decreased in vitro after incubation with athletes' post-exercise serum, an effect that was attenuated by supplements of IL-2 or anti IL-6 neutralizing antibodies. Our data suggest that exercise-induced changes in serum cytokine levels promote alterations in Tregs and Th17 cell populations, which may divert the subtle balance in the immune system towards inflammation. This may explain allergic and autoimmune phenomena previously reported in endurance athletes and contribute to our understanding of exercise-related asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere74722
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - 9 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Endurance Exercise Diverts the Balance between Th17 Cells and Regulatory T Cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this