Circulating hematopoietic progenitor cells in runners

Maria R. Bonsignore, Giuseppe Morici, Alessandra Santoro, Maria Pagano, Lucia Cascio, Anna Bonanno, Pietro Abate, Franco Mirabella, Mirella Profita, Giuseppe Insalaco, Maria Gioia, A. Maurizio Vignola, Ignazio Majolino, Ugo Testa, James C. Hogg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Because endurance exercise causes release of mediators and growth factors active on the bone marrow, we asked whether it might affect circulating hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) in amateur runners [n = 16, age: 41.8 ± 13.5 (SD) yr, training: 93.8 ± 31.8 km/wk] compared with sedentary controls (n = 9, age: 39.4 ± 10.2 yr). HPCs, plasma cortisol, interleukin (IL)-6, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), and the growth factor fms-like tyrosine kinase-3 (flt3)-ligand were measured at rest and after a marathon (M; n = 8) or half-marathon (HM; n = 8). Circulating HPC counts (i.e., CD34+ cells and their subpopulations) were three- to fourfold higher in runners than in controls at baseline. They were unaffected by HM or M acutely but decreased the morning postrace. Baseline cortisol, flt3-ligand, IL-6, and G-CSF levels were similar in runners and controls. IL-6 and G-CSF increased to higher levels after M compared with HM, whereas cortisol and flt3-ligand increased similarly postrace. Our data suggest that increased HPCs reflect an adaptation response to recurrent, exercise-associated release of neutrophils and stress and inflammatory mediators, indicating modulation of bone marrow activity by habitual running.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1691-1697
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Cytokines
  • Endurance training
  • Growth factors
  • Marathon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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