Whereas endurance exercise is known to induce marked neutrophilia, it remains to be fully understood as to whether the cell functions are altered as well as whether the adaptability of the responses to training occurs. To address both of these issues, we undertook the present longitudinal investigation in ten healthy untrained men (20-24 years, VO2max 39.1 +/- 4.2 ml/kg/min). The exercise protocol was 7 consecutive sessions of the same workload performed each day for 1.5 h at an intensity of 70% of VO2max. Peripheral blood samples were obtained before, immediately after, and 1 h after exercise on Days 1, 4, and 7, and served for determination of total and differential leukocyte counts, chemotaxis and chemiluminescence of neutrophils. Acute endurance exercise caused marked peripheral neutrophilia with significant increase in both absolute number and relative proportion of band neutrophils (p < 0.01, respectively), indicating partial recruitment of bone marrow neutrophils. While chemotaxis remained unaltered following exercise, reactive oxygen species generation of neutrophils, measured by luminol-dependent chemiluminescence upon stimulation with opsonized zymosan, was not only significantly enhanced following exercise (p < 0.01), but also associated with the proportional increase in band neutrophils (r = 0.727, p < 0.05), suggesting that neutrophils mobilized from the bone marrow following endurance exercise may possess higher responsiveness. On the other hand, the magnitude of the exercise-induced changes was reduced gradually by daily repeated exposure to endurance exercise, but none of the trends were significant except the decline in resting segmented neutrophil counts (p < 0.05) at least during a 1-wk period of repeated exercise sessions.