The high affinity growth hormone-binding protein (GHBP) circulates in human blood and represents the extracellular domain of the growth hormone (GH) receptor. It is well known that repetitive bouts of endurance type exercise result in increased integrated GH secretion. As the effects of chronic exercise on plasma GHBP levels have never been studied systematically, we investigated the effect of 2 weeks of intense endurance training on plasma GHBP as well as on plasma insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I levels in 10 healthy, young, non-obese men. IGF-I was measured as an indicator of the effects of GH release. We also studied 10 control subjects matched for sex, age and activity, who were instructed not to change their customary activities. GHBP was determined by FPLC size exclusion chromatography and subsequent Scatchard plot analysis of the binding data; IGF-I levels were measured by RIA. The results showed that plasma IGF-I and GHBP levels were increased in the subjects who followed the training program. IGF-I and GHBP changed from 252 +/- 56 ng/ml and 912 +/- 59 pmol/l before training, to 344 +/- 61 ng/ml (p < 0.01) and 1020 +/- 48 pmol/l (p < 0.01), respectively. Another effect of the training was that the aerobic capacity of these subjects was better utilized and endurance was improved. In contrast, plasma IGF-I, GHBP, utilization of aerobic capacity and endurance did not change significantly in the control subjects. We conclude that two weeks of strenuous endurance training lead to increased plasma IGF-I and high affinity GHBP levels.