The influence of exercise intensity on the accumulation of inosine monophosphate (IMP) in human skeletal muscle has been investigated. Ten men cycled at workloads corresponding to 40%, 75% and 100% of their maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). Muscle IMP was below the detection limit (less than 0.01 mmol kg-1 dry wt) at rest and after exercise at 40% of VO2 max, but increased to 0.26 +/- 0.06 (mean +/- SEM) and 3.50 +/- 0.51 mmol kg-1 dry wt after exercise at 75% and 100% of VO2 max respectively. Accumulation of IMP corresponded to a similar decrease in the total adenine nucleotide content. The muscle content of IMP was positively related to lactate and negatively related to phosphocreatine (PCr). IMP was formed in both fibre types, but the IMP content at fatigue was about twice as high in type II fibres as in type I fibres. It was concluded that the IMP content of human skeletal muscle is very low at rest and after low-intensity exercise, but increases after moderate and high-intensity exercise. In contrast to rat muscle, where deamination of AMP predominantly occurs in the fast-twitch muscle fibres, IMP is formed during exercise in both fibre types in human muscle. Accumulation of IMP appears to reflect an imbalance between the rate of utilization and the rate of regeneration of ATP.