This study examined whether oral glutamine supplementation abolishes some of the exercise-induced changes in lymphocyte functions following long-term intense exercise. A group of 16 marathon runners participating in The Copenhagen Marathon 1996 were placed randomly in either a placebo (n = 7) or a glutamine receiving group (n = 9). Each subject received four doses of either placebo or glutamine (100 mg x kg(-1)) administered at 0, 30, 60, and 90-min post-race. In the placebo group the plasma glutamine concentrations were lower than pre-race values during the post-exercise period [mean 647 (SEM 32) compared to 470 (SEM 22) micromol x 1(-1) 90-min post-race, P < 0.05] whereas glutamine supplementation maintained the plasma glutamine concentration (at approximately 750 micromol x 1(-1)). Glutamine supplementation in vivo had no effect on the lymphokine activated killer (LAK) cell activity, the proliferative responses or the exercise-induced changes in concentrations or percentages of any of the leucocyte subpopulations examined. Glutamine addition in in vitro studies enhanced the proliferative response in both groups. These data would suggest that decreased plasma glutamine concentrations post-exercise are not responsible for exercise-induced decrease in LAK activity and that the influence of glutamine in vitro is not dependent on the plasma glutamine concentration at the time of sampling.