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Study of the phagocytic process in neutrophils from elite sportswomen


All the stages of the phagocytic process of blood neutrophils were compared in sedentary young women (no formal exercise during the previous 24 months) and elite sportswomen (basketball players from the “Siglo XXI Spain Selection”, in the middle of their competitive season) at rest. The sportswomen had performed no exercise since the day before taking the blood samples. Adherence of neutrophils to nylon fibre, which is similar to endothelium adherence, was not different between the two groups [62 (SD 14) and 58 (SD 18) in control and sport groups respectively]. Chemotaxis (studied in a Boyden chamber using a filter with 3 μm pore diameter) was found to be stimulated (P<0.001) in the sportswomen [105 (SD 30)] with respect to the controls [39 (SD 9)]. Attachment, ingestion and killing by neutrophils was measured by incubation of the neutrophils with serum and a suspension ofCandida albicans. While no statistical differences were found in attachment ofC. albicans after 15 min incubation [71 (SD 8) in the control group, and 74 (SD 20) in the sport group], the sportswomen showed a higher (P<0.001) ingestion capacity forC. albicans at both 15 min [53 (SD 13) and 111 (SD 32) in control and sportswomen respectively] and 60 min [control 90 (SD 10), and sport group 224 (SD 21)] incubation. The greater phagocytic capacity in sportswomen was correlated with a higher plasma cortisol concentration (P <0.05) and a lower plasma ACTH concentration (P <0.001) in this group. It is concluded that elite women basketball players have a greater phagocytic capacity than sedentary women, possibly mediated by the higher plasma cortisol concentration in the sportswomen.

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Correspondence to E. Ortega.

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Ortega, E., Barriga, C. & De la Fuente, M. Study of the phagocytic process in neutrophils from elite sportswomen. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 66, 37–42 (1993).

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Key words

  • Neutrophils
  • Phagocytosis
  • Sportswomen
  • Exercise