Thermotolerance and heat acclimation may share a common mechanism in humans

Matthew Kuennen, Trevor Gillum, Karol Dokladny, Edward Bedrick, Suzanne Schneider, Pope Moseley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Thermotolerance and heat acclimation are key adaptation processes that have been hitherto viewed as separate phenomena. Here, we provide evidence that these processes may share a common basis, as both may potentially be governed by the heat shock response. We evaluated the effects of a heat shock response-inhibitor (quercetin; 2,000 mg/day) on established markers of thermotolerance [gastrointestinal barrier permeability, plasma TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10 concentrations, and leukocyte heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) content]. Heat acclimation reduced body temperatures, heart rate, and physiological strain during exercise/heat stress) in male subjects (n=8) completing a 7-day heat acclimation protocol. These same subjects completed an identical protocol under placebo supplementation (placebo). Gastrointestinal barrier permeability and TNF- α were increased on the 1st day of exercise/heat stress in quercetin; no differences in these variables were reported in placebo. Exercise HSP70 responses were increased, and plasma cytokines (IL-6, IL-10) were decreased on the 7th day of heat acclimation in placebo; with concomitant reductions in exercise body temperatures, heart rate, and physiological strain. In contrast, gastrointestinal barrier permeability remained elevated, HSP70 was not increased, and IL-6, IL-10, and exercise body temperatures were not reduced on the 7th day of heat acclimation in quercetin. While exercise heart rate and physiological strain were reduced in quercetin, this occurred later in exercise than with placebo. Consistent with the concept that thermotolerance and heat acclimation are related through the heat shock response, repeated exercise/heat stress increases cytoprotective HSP70 and reduces circulating cytokines, contributing to reductions in cellular and systemic markers of heat strain. Exercising under a heat shock response-inhibitor prevents both cellular and systemic heat adaptations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R524-R533
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokine
  • Gastrointestinal barrier permeability
  • Heat shock response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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