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Behav Neurosci. 1986 Oct;100(5):675-8.

Stress depresses interferon production by leukocytes concomitant with a decrease in natural killer cell activity.


This study addressed the effects of a commonplace stressful event on interferon production and natural killer (NK) cell activity and numbers. The quantity of interferons (IFN) produced by concanavalin A stimulated leukocytes obtained from 40 medical students during examinations was significantly lower when compared with IFN levels produced by peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs) taken 6 weeks earlier (baseline). In addition, three different assays measuring NK cells also showed significant decrements during examinations when compared with baseline samples. These assays included lysis of MOLT-4 target cells, percentage of anti-Leu-7+ (NK) cells, and percentage of large granular lymphocytes. Self-report data documented the significantly greater distress associated with examinations in comparison with baseline samples. The data have implications for immunosuppressive disorders and stress-associated illnesses.

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