Immunobiology. 2003;207(4):265-73.

Whole body hyperthermia induces apoptosis in subpopulations of blood lymphocytes.

Dieing AAhlers OKerner TWust PFelix RLöffel JRiess HHildebrandt B.


Medical Clinic, Department of Hematology and Oncology, Charité Medical School, Humboldt-University, Campus Mitte, Berlin, Germany.


Whole Body Hyperthermia (WBH) has been shown to induce alterations of lymphocyte subpopulations in peripheral blood: T-cells decrease and NK-cells increase in number in the course of this therapy. As elevated temperature induces programmed cell death in healthy lymphocytes in vitro, we intended to determine the role of lymphocyte apoptosis in WBH by measuring the rate of apoptosis in blood lymphocytes in the course of this treatment. Blood was taken from cancer patients, treated with whole body hyperthermia and chemotherapy, before, during and the day after treatment. Apoptosis rates of the wholelymphocyte population, as well as, of B-, T-, CD4 + -T-, CD8 + -T-, and Natural-Killer (NK)-cell-subpopulations were determined by staining with AnnexinV-FITC and FACS flow analysis. A significant rise of apoptosis in the whole lymphocyte population, in CD4 + -T- and in CD8 + -T-cells occurred duringtreatment. In contrast, an elevated rate of apoptosis in NK-cells was observed 20 hours after termination of WBH. These differences were similar when the cells were incubated at 37 degrees C for 24 hours. Our results suggest, that apoptosis is one reason for the previously described decrease of T-cells during WBH and of NK-cells after WBH, and that the hyperthermia-related apoptosis-inducing mechanism is different in T-cells and NK-cells.