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Sex-specific variation in signaling pathways and gene expression patterns in human leukocytes in response to endotoxin and exercise



While exercise effects on the immune system have received increasing attention in recent years, it remains unclear to what extent gender and fluctuations in sex hormones during menstrual cycle influence immunological responses to exercise.


We investigated mRNA changes induced through exhaustive exercise (half-marathon; pre-exercise and post-exercise [30 min, 3 h, 24 h] on whole blood cultures ± lipopolysaccharide [LPS] [1 h]) with a specific focus on sex differences (men vs women in luteal phase) as an extension of our previous study.


Inflammation related signaling pathways, TLRs, cytosolic DNA sensing and RIG-I like receptors were differentially activated between sexes in LPS-stimulated cultures. Genes differentially regulated between sexes included TNIP-1, TNIP-3, IL-6, HIVEP1, CXCL3, CCR3, IL-8, and CD69, revealing a bias towards less anti-inflammatory gene regulation in women compared to men. In addition, several genes relevant to brain function (KMO, DDIT4, VEGFA, IGF1R, IGF2R, and FGD4) showed differential activation between sexes. Some of these genes (e.g., KMO in women, DDIT4 in both sexes) potentially constitute neuroprotective mechanisms.


These data reveal that the exercise-induced change in gene expression might be gender and menstrual cycle phase dependent.

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