A trauma-like elevation of plasma cytokines in humans in response to treadmill running


Corresponding author K. Ostrowski: The Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, Rigshospitalet, Afs. 7652, Tagensvej 20, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark. Email: ko@rh.dk


  • 1Elevated levels of cytokines, especially interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1ra, can be measured in the plasma of athletes after exhaustive long term exercise.
  • 2The present study investigates the kinetics of several cytokines and chemokines in ten male athletes before, during and after 2.5 h of treadmill running at 75% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2,max). Blood was sampled before, every half-hour during running and every hour in the following 6 h recovery period.
  • 3The plasma concentration of IL-6 increased after 30 min of running, and peaked at the end of running with a 25-fold increase compared with the pre-exercise value. IL-1ra increased only after running, and peaked after 2 h of rest with an 18-fold increase compared with the pre-exercise value. No changes were found in the concentrations of IL-1β, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α, IL-15 and macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1β, and the concentrations of IL-8 and MIP-1α were below detection limits.
  • 4The results suggest that very early events in exercise trigger the release of IL-6, and that the cytokine response to exercise has similarities to that observed after trauma.