We examined the time course of the appearance and disappearance of deleted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in human leucocytes after endurance exercise. Five untrained healthy females [aged 20.2 (0.4) years] exercised for 30 min at 50-60 W at 60 rpm on a cycle ergometer for 2 or 3 consecutive days. Blood samples were collected immediately before exercise, and on three occasions after the end of the last exercise bout. Levels of mtDNA were analyzed using the nested polymerase chain reaction method. Prior to exercise, a common mtDNA deletion was identified in all subjects. This common deletion was again identified in all subjects 1 day after completion of the exercise regime. However, mtDNA with this common deletion was found to have disappeared 2 days after exercise in three subjects, and after 4 days in the other two subjects. The deletion then reappeared 5 or 6 days after the final exercise bout in three of the five subjects. These findings demonstrate that a common deletion in leucocytes disappears over a period of several days after endurance exercise and reappears a number of days thereafter. Therefore, the status of the appearance and disappearance of common mtDNA deletion in leucocytes is highly dynamic.