We investigated whether increased concentrations of circulating cytokines may be responsible for exercise-induced priming of blood neutrophils (J. A. Smith et al. Int. J. Sports Med. 11: 179-187, 1990). The plasma concentrations of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin- (IL) 1β, IL-6, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and neopterin in trained and untrained human subjects were measured by immunoassay before and after 1 h of cycling at 60% of maximal oxygen uptake. C-reactive protein and creatine kinase (CK) were also measured before and 24 h after exercise as markers of the 'acute-phase response' and muscle damage (C. Taylor et al. J. Appl. Physiol. 62: 464-469, 1987), respectively. The small changes in the plasma concentrations of cytokines or neopterin observed after exercise in both trained and untrained subjects were not significantly different to those found in a control group of nonexercised subjects. However, untrained subjects did exhibit an acute-phase response (P = 0.04) 24 h after exercise without additional release of CK into plasma. Baseline training differences were confined to a twofold elevation in CK activity (P = 0.04). The results show that circulating cytokines are unlikely to be responsible for the priming of neutrophil microbicidal activity observed after moderate endurance exercise (J. A. Smith et al. Int. J. Sports Med. 11: 179-187, 1990).