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Immune system activation and fatigue during treadmill running: role of interferon


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 1998 - Volume 30 - Issue 6 - p 863-868
Basic Sciences: Original Investigations

Immune system activation and fatigue during treadmill running: role of interferon. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 863-868, 1998. Extreme fatigue often accompanies infection and other diseases, but the causal mechanisms are unknown. Recent research has focused on various cytokines as potential immune system mediators of fatigue during illness. Interferon-α/β (IFN-α/β) has attracted the most interest in this regard.

Purpose: The purpose of this research was to study the effect of IFN-α/β on fatigue during treadmill running in mice.

Methods: Mice (male CD-1) were acclimated to treadmill running for 4 d before experimental sessions. In experiment 1 (EXP 1), mice were injected with either polyI:C (pI:C) (5 mg·kg−1 body weight) or saline (CON) 12 or 24 h before the exercise session. These sessions consisted of treadmill running to fatigue (∼3 h, 19-24 m·min−1, 5% grade, no shock). In experiment 2 (EXP 2), mice were injected 24 h before exercise with normal rabbit serum (CON), pI:C, or pI:C + anti-IFN-α/β antibody (pI:C + Ab).

Results: The results of EXP 1 showed that the plasma IFN-α/β titer was much higher at 24 h than at 12 h after pI:C injection (P < 0.001) and that run time to fatigue was significantly reduced only when the exercise occurred 24 h after injection (P < 0.05). In EXP 2, administration of the anti-IFN-α/β antibody attenuated both the pI:C-induced increase in plasma IFN-α/β (P < 0.001) and the decrease in run time to fatigue (r = −0.81, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: These results suggest that immune system activation by pI:C was associated with early fatigue during prolonged treadmill exercise and that this effect may, at least partially, result from increased IFN-α/β.

Departments of Exercise Science and Microbiology & Immunology, Schools of Public Health and Medicine, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208

Submitted for publication August 1997.

Accepted for publication December 1997.

Address for correspondence: J. Mark Davis, Ph.D., Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208. E-mail:

© Williams & Wilkins 1998. All Rights Reserved.