Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine responses to a 164-km road cycle ride in a hot environment



The purpose of this study was to examine the circulating cytokine response to a recreational 164-km road cycling event in a high ambient temperature and to determine if this response was affected by self-paced exercise time to completion.


Thirty-five men and five women were divided into tertiles based on time to complete the cycling event: slowest (SLOW), moderate (MOD), and fastest (FAST) finishers. Plasma samples were obtained 1–2 h before (PRE) and immediately after (IP) the event. A high-sensitivity multiplex assay kit was used to determine the concentration of plasma anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, IL-13) and pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-2, IL-6, IL-7, IL-8, IL-12, GM-CSF, IFN-γ, and TNF-α).


The concentration of plasma IL-10 increased significantly (p < 0.05) in FAST and MOD groups and had no change in the SLOW group in response to a 164-km cycling event in the hot environment. Other cytokine responses were not influenced by the Time to completion. Pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-2, GM-CSF, and TNF-α decreased; whereas, IL-6 and IL-8 increased from PRE to IP. Additionally, anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 decreased.


Completion of a 164-km cycling event induced substantial changes in circulating pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine concentrations. Time to completion appears to have a greater influence on the systemic IL-10 response than the environmental condition; however, it is possible that a threshold for absolute intensity must be reached for environmental conditions to affect the IL-10 response to exercise. Thus, cyclists from the FAST/MOD groups appear more likely to experience an acute transient immune suppression than cyclists from the SLOW group.

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Fig. 1



Analysis of variance


Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor






Immediately after the 164-km cycling event


Approximately 1–2 h before the 164-km cycling event


Tumor necrosis factor


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jakob L. Vingren.

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This research study was not funded by external sources; all funds were internal to the University of Connecticut or University of North Texas.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board of the University of Connecticut and in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


The opinions and assertions expressed herein are those of the authors and should not be constructed as reflecting those of the Uniformed Services University, Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force, Department of the Navy or the United States Department of Defense.

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Communicated by Fabio Fischetti.

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Luk, HY., Levitt, D.E., Lee, E.C. et al. Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine responses to a 164-km road cycle ride in a hot environment. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 2007–2015 (2016).

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  • Pro-inflammatory cytokine
  • Anti-inflammatory cytokine
  • Immune suppression
  • Heat
  • Ultra-endurance
  • Exercise