Journal of Clinical Immunology

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 344–351 | Cite as

Catecholamines induce alterations of distribution and activity of human natural killer (NK) cells

  • Manfred Schedlowski
  • Anette Falk
  • Axel Rohne
  • Thomas O. F. Wagner
  • Roland Jacobs
  • Uwe Tewes
  • Reinhold E. Schmidt
Original Articles


Catecholamines have been suggested to be responsible for altered cellular immunity after stress. This study was performed to determine the effects of adrenaline and noradrenaline on lymphocyte subpopulations and NK cell functions. Subjects were given a subcutaneous injection of either NaCl, adrenaline (5 µg/kg), or noradrenaline (10 µg/kg). Catecholamine concentrations, subsets of peripheral blood lymphocytes, NK activity, and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) were analyzed before (baseline) and 5, 15, 30, 60, and 120 min after injection. There were no differences between groups in the distribution of CD2+ and CD8+ lymphocytes over time. However, CD3+ and CD4+ T cells decreased significantly 5 to 60 min after injection of adrenaline. In contrast, NK cell numbers (CD16+, CD56+) increased significantly 5 min after injection of adrenaline and noradrenaline, reached the highest values 15 to 30 min postinjection, and subsequently declined to baseline values 60 (noradrenaline) and 120 (adrenaline) min, respectively, after injection. Similar alterations for NK activity and ADCC were observed after administration of both catecholamines. These data suggest that both sympatheticadrenal hormones are similarly potent modulators of natural immunity and provide further evidence that catecholamines might be responsible for the observed alterations in immune functions after phases of acute stress.

Key words

Adrenaline noradrenaline lymphocytes natural killer (NK) activity 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manfred Schedlowski
    • 1
  • Anette Falk
    • 2
  • Axel Rohne
    • 3
  • Thomas O. F. Wagner
    • 3
  • Roland Jacobs
    • 2
  • Uwe Tewes
    • 1
  • Reinhold E. Schmidt
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Medical PsychologyMedizinische Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Division of ImmunologyMedizinische Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Division of EndocrinologyMedizinische Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany

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