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J Leukoc Biol. 2013 Sep;94(3):431-7. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0611298. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Reduction of body temperature governs neutrophil retention in hibernating and nonhibernating animals by margination.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands.


Hibernation consists of periods of low metabolism, called torpor, interspersed by euthermic arousal periods. During deep and daily (shallow) torpor, the number of circulating leukocytes decreases, although circulating cells, is restored to normal numbers upon arousal. Here, we show that neutropenia, during torpor, is solely a result of lowering of body temperature, as a reduction of circulating also occurred following forced hypothermia in summer euthermic hamsters and rats that do not hibernate. Splenectomy had no effect on reduction in circulating neutrophils during torpor. Margination of neutrophils to vessel walls appears to be the mechanism responsible for reduced numbers of neutrophils in hypothermic animals, as the effect is inhibited by pretreatment with dexamethasone. In conclusion, low body temperature in species that naturally use torpor or in nonhibernating species under forced hypothermia leads to a decrease of circulating neutrophils as a result of margination. These findings may be of clinical relevance, as they could explain, at in least part, the benefits and drawbacks of therapeutic hypothermia as used in trauma patients and during major surgery.


corticosteroids; hamster; hypothermia; leukopenia; torpor

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