COVID-19 vaccination produces exercise-responsive SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells regardless of infection history

Kyle A. Smith, Tiffany M. Zúñiga, Forrest L. Baker, Helena Batatinha, Charles R. Pedlar, Shane C. Burgess, Michael P. Gustafson, Emmanuel Katsanis, Richard J. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The mobilization and redistribution of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) specific T-cells and neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) during exercise is purported to increase immune surveillance and protect against severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We sought to determine if COVID-19 vaccination would elicit exercise-responsive SARS-CoV-2 T-cells and transiently alter nAb titers. Methods: Eighteen healthy participants completed a 20-min bout of graded cycling exercise before and/or after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. All major leukocyte subtypes were enumerated before, during, and after exercise by flow cytometry, and immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 were determined using whole blood peptide stimulation assays, T-cell receptor (TCR)-β sequencing, and SARS-CoV-2 nAb serology. Results: COVID-19 vaccination had no effect on the mobilization or egress of major leukocyte subsets in response to intensity-controlled graded exercise. However, non-infected participants had a significantly reduced mobilization of CD4+ and CD8+ naive T-cells, as well as CD4+ central memory T-cells, after vaccination (synthetic immunity group); this was not seen after vaccination in those with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (hybrid immunity group). Acute exercise after vaccination robustly mobilized SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells to blood in an intensity-dependent manner. Both groups mobilized T-cells that reacted to spike protein; however, only the hybrid immunity group mobilized T-cells that reacted to membrane and nucleocapsid antigens. nAbs increased significantly during exercise only in the hybrid immunity group. Conclusion: These data indicate that acute exercise mobilizes SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells that recognize spike protein and increases the redistribution of nAbs in individuals with hybrid immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Anti-viral
  • COVID-19
  • Exercise immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T-Cells
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'COVID-19 vaccination produces exercise-responsive SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells regardless of infection history'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this