Exercise increases skeletal muscle lipoprotein lipase (LPL) expression, but the time course of this response is not known. In the present study, we examined the time course of the LPL response to both short-term and acute exercise and measured circulating levels of putative regulators of muscle LPL. Nine adults underwent short-term exercise training (60-90 min of stationary cycling at 55-70% of leg ergometer peak oxygen uptake on 5 consecutive days). Five vastus lateralis biopsies were performed: before training, 20 h after the fourth bout (immediately before the 5th bout), and 0.2, 4, and 8 h after the fifth bout. After four bouts of exercise in 4 days, there was no increase in LPL mass or LPL mRNA exactly 20 h after the fourth bout. However, when tissues were sampled closer to the exercise bout on the 5th day, transient increases were seen. On day 5, LPL mRNA increased by 127% (P < 0.05) at 4 h postexercise and was followed by an increase in LPL mass of 93% (P < 0.05) at 8 h postexercise. Serum triglycerides decreased by 23% (P < 0.05) during the protocol. Two nonexercising subjects showed no consistent change in LPL mRNA or mass. Acute exercise transiently increased levels of norepinephrine (9-fold) and epinephrine (5-fold) and reduced insulin levels. Acute exercise preceded by four daily bouts of exercise induces a transient rise in LPL mRNA followed by rise in LPL mass, suggesting that these responses are temporally related. This induction of LPL gene expression may result from dynamic changes in serum catecholamines, plasma insulin, or events intrinsic to muscle contraction itself.