Brain derived growth factor (BDNF) gene of rat has a complex structure: at least four 5' untranslated exons regulated by different promoters and one 3' exon containing the encoding region. BDNF is expressed by skeletal muscles in an activity-dependent manner. In this study, BDNF mRNA was analysed by RT-PCR in the soleus muscle following a single (acute) session of running or a training of five days of running (repetitive exercise). Moreover, the expression of the exons was quantitatively analysed by real time RT-PCR. Finally, muscle BDNF protein level was evaluated by western blotting. BDNF mRNA was found to increase over the second day after acute exercise; on the other hand, two peaks (2 and 24 hours after the last session, respectively) in BDNF mRNA level were found after repetitive exercise, but it was similar to that of controls 6 hours after the last session. BDNF protein level progressively increased also after the mRNA went back to the basal level, so suggesting that it cumulates within the cell after acute exercise, whereas it followed the mRNA level time course after repetitive exercise. These results point to the following conclusions: BDNF mRNA is up-regulated by activity, but this response is delayed to the second day after acute exercise; repetitive exercise transiently depresses the expression of BDNF mRNA, so that the over-expression due to the previous day's exercise completely disappears 6 hours after the last exercise session.