Effects of maximal exercise on natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity and responsiveness to interferon-α in the young and old

Jeffrey A. Woods, Joella K. Evans, Brett W. Wolters, Michael A. Ceddia, Edward McAuley

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We investigated the effects of a graded maximal exercise treadmill test on natural killer (NK) cell number, activity, and responsiveness to interferon-α (IFN-α) in young (22 ± 0.7 yrs) and elderly (65 ± 0.8 yrs) sedentary subjects. NK cell cytotoxicity (NKCC) was determined using Ficoll purified peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by a 51Cr release assay against NK-sensitive (K562) and NK-insensitive (Daudi) target cells at various effector:target (E:T) ratios before and immediately after exercise. PBMCs were incubated with rhuIFN-α (125 and 250u/106 PBMCs) or without for 2 hrs before addition to the 51Cr release assay. There were no differences in unstimulated NKCC against K562 or Daudi targets between the old and the young despite significantly (p = .01) higher percentages of CD56+ NK cells (21.1 ± 2.3% in old vs 12.5 ± 2.5% in young, pre-exercise). IFN-α increased NKCC versus both targets, and NK cells from old subjects were hyporesponsive to IFN-α stimulation; this was especially evident at low E:T ratios versus Daudi cells. Maximal exercise significantly increased (50- 200%) unstimulated NKCC versus K562 and Daudi targets similarly in both young and old and increased the percentage of CD56+ cells in the PBMC fraction to 33.3 ± 3.7% and 23.3 ± 3.6% in old and young, respectively. We found a significant correlation between %CD56+ and basal NKCC versus K562s and Daudi cells in the young (i.e., r = .55; p = .02 vs K562s), but not the old (i.e., r = .20; p = .29 vs K562s) subjects. This indicates that, in the young, part of the exercise-induced increase in NKCC is due to an increase in NK cell number. Maximal exercise did not affect unstimulated per cell killing of K562s, but tended to increase per cell killing of Daudis. These results indicate that CD56+ cells from old subjects have an intrinsic defect in their ability to perform cytolysis and respond to IFN-α. Furthermore, a single bout of maximal exercise increases NKCC and CD56+ cell number similarly in both young and old subjects regardless of the target cell used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B430-B437
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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