The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of strenuous exercise on the functions of peritoneal macrophages in rats and to test the hypothesis that branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation will be beneficial to the macrophages of rats from strenuous exercise. Forty male Wistar rats were randomly divided into five groups: (C) Control, E) Exercise, (E1) Exercise with one week to recover, (ES) Exercise + Supplementation and (ES1) Exercise + Supplementation with 1 week to recover. All rats except those of the sedentary control were subjected to four weeks of strenuous exercise. Blood hemoglobin, serum testosterone and BCAA levels were tested. Peritoneal macrophages functions were also determined at the same time. The data showed that hemoglobin, testosterone, BCAA levels, and body weight in group E decreased significantly as compared with that of group C. Meanwhile, phagocytosis capacity (decreased by 17.07%, p
= 0.031), reactive oxygen species (ROS) production (decreased by 26%, p
= 0.003) and MHC II mRNA (decreased by 22%, p
= 0.041) of macrophages decreased in the strenuous exercise group as compared with group C. However, the chemotaxis of macrophages did not change significantly. In addition, BCAA supplementation could slightly increase the serum BCAA levels of rats from strenuous exercise (increased by 6.70%, p
> 0.05). Moreover, the body weight, the blood hemoglobin, the serum testosterone and the function of peritoneal macrophages in group ES did not change significantly as compared with group E. These results suggest that long-term intensive exercise impairs the function of macrophages, which is essential for microbicidal capability. This may represent a novel mechanism of immunosuppression induced by strenuous exercise. Moreover, the impaired function of macrophage induced by strenuous exercise could not be ameliorated by BCAA supplementation in the dosing and timing used for this study.
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