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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 13;8(11):e80248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080248. eCollection 2013.

Effects of interval and continuous exercise training on CD4 lymphocyte apoptotic and autophagic responses to hypoxic stress in sedentary men.

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  • 1Healthy Aging Research Center, Graduate Institute of Rehabilitation Science, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan ; Department of Rehabilitation Science, Jen-Teh Junior College of Medicine, Nursing and Management, Miaoli, Taiwan.


Exercise is linked with the type/intensity-dependent adaptive immune responses, whereas hypoxic stress facilitates the programmed death of CD4 lymphocytes. This study investigated how high intensity-interval (HIT) and moderate intensity-continuous (MCT) exercise training influence hypoxia-induced apoptosis and autophagy of CD4 lymphocytes in sedentary men. Thirty healthy sedentary males were randomized to engage either HIT (3-minute intervals at 40% and 80%VO2max, n=10) or MCT (sustained 60%VO2max, n=10) for 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week for 5 weeks, or to a control group that did not received exercise intervention (CTL, n=10). CD4 lymphocyte apoptotic and autophagic responses to hypoxic exercise (HE, 100 W under 12%O2 for 30 minutes) were determined before and after various regimens. The results demonstrated that HIT exhibited higher enhancements of pulmonary ventilation, cardiac output, and VO2 at ventilatory threshold and peak performance than MCT did. Before the intervention, HE significantly down-regulated autophagy by decreased beclin-1, Atg-1, LC3-II, Atg-12, and LAMP-2 expressions and acridine orange staining, and simultaneously enhanced apoptosis by increased phospho-Bcl-2 and active caspase-9/-3 levels and phosphotidylserine exposure in CD4 lymphocytes. However, five weeks of HIT and MCT, but not CTL, reduced the extents of declined autophagy and potentiated apoptosis in CD4 lymphocytes caused by HE. Furthermore, both HIT and MCT regimens manifestly lowered plasma myeloperoxidase and interleukin-4 levels and elevated the ratio of interleukin-4 to interferon-γ at rest and following HE. Therefore, we conclude that HIT is superior to MCT for enhancing aerobic fitness. Moreover, either HIT or MCT effectively depresses apoptosis and promotes autophagy in CD4 lymphocytes and is accompanied by increased interleukin-4/interferon-γ ratio and decreased peroxide production during HE.

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