Exercise exerts various effects on the immune system, and evidence is emerging on its anti-inflammatory effects; the mechanisms on the basis of these modifications are poorly understood. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) released from damaged cells acts as a molecule containing the so-called damage-associated molecular patterns and can trigger sterile inflammation. Indeed, high plasma levels of mtDNA are associated to several inflammatory conditions and physiological aging and longevity. The authors evaluated plasma mtDNA in professional male volleyball players during seasonal training and the possible correlation between mtDNA levels and clinical parameters, body composition, and physical performance.
Plasma mtDNA was quantified by real-time PCR every 2 mo in 12 professional volleyball players (PVPs) during 2 consecutive seasons. As comparison, 20 healthy nonathlete male volunteers (NAs) were analyzed.
The authors found lower levels of mtDNA in plasma of PVPs than in NAs. However, PVPs showed a decrease of circulating mtDNA only in the first season, while no appreciable variations were observed during the second season. No correlation was observed among mtDNA, hematochemical, and anthropometric parameters.
Regular physical activity appeared associated with lower levels of circulating mtDNA, further confirming the protective, anti-inflammatory effect of exercise.