Surgical and physical stress increase circulating blood dendritic cell counts independently of monocyte counts
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Dendritic cells (DCs) are specialized antigen-presenting cells that have the unique ability to initiate a primary immune response. The effect of physiologic stress on circulating blood DCs has thus far not been studied. In this study, we applied a recently developed method of counting blood DCs to test the hypothesis that significant stress to the body such as surgery and exercise might induce measurable changes in the DC numbers, subsets, phenotype, and function. Twenty-six patients scheduled for elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy, 4 for elective hysterectomy, 56 controls, and 5 volunteers who underwent a stress exercise test were enrolled in the study. Absolute DC counts increased acutely (71.7% 6 11% [SEM], P 5 .0001) in response to the stress of surgery and dropped below preoperative levels (225% 6 14% [SEM], P 5 .05) on days 2-3. The perioperative DC subset balance remained constant. Interestingly, DC counts changed independently ofmonocytecounts. Exercise also induced a rise in DC counts but coincidentally with monocyte counts. Surprisingly, no phenotypic or functional activation of DCs was seen in either stress situations in vivo. DCs are rapidly mobilized into the circulation in response to surgical and exercise stress, which may serve to prepare the host's immune defenses against trauma. The independent regulation of the DC and monocyte counts reinforces the distinction between these 2 cell populations.