Type I collagen is known to adapt to physical activity, and biomarkers of collagen turnover indicate that synthesis can be influenced by a single intense exercise bout, but the exact time pattern of these latter changes are largely undescribed. In the present study, 17 healthy young males had their plasma concentrations of the carboxyterminal propeptide of type I procollagen (PICP), a marker of collagen formation, and the immunoactive carboxyterminal cross-linked telopeptide (ICTP), a marker of collagen resorption, measured before and immediately postexercise, as well as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 days after completion of a marathon run (42 km). Serum concentrations of creatine kinase (S-CK) were measured as an indicator of muscular breakdown in response to the exercise bout. After a transient decrease in collagen formation immediately after exercise (plasma PICP concentration: 176 +/- 17 microg/liter to 156 +/- 9 microg/liter)(P < 0.05), concentrations rose in the days following the marathon, peaked 72 hours after exercise (197 +/- 8 microg/liter)(P < 0.05 versus basal), and returned to basal values similar to those 5 days postexercise (170 +/- 10 microg/liter). Apart from a short increase immediately after exercise, collagen resorption did not change from basal levels throughout the remaining period (P > 0.05). Muscle breakdown was elevated during the days following the exercise and peaked 24 hours after the exercise (S-CK concentration: 3,133 +/- 579 U/liter). The findings in the present study indicate that type I collagen synthesis is accelerated in response to prolonged strenuous exercise, reaching a peak after 3 days and returning to preexercising levels 5 days after the completion of a marathon run.