Digoxin-like immunoreactive factors (DLIFs) in serum may represent endogenous cardiotropic agents. We determined if blood levels of these endogenous factors changed during prolonged strenuous exercise. Total and loosely protein-bound (LPB) DLIF were measured by radioimmunoassay in the serum of nine healthy subjects during prolonged exercise to exhaustion. Mean total and LPB serum levels of DLIF increased by 72% (580 to 945 pg/mL) and 63% (53 to 91 pg/mL) over baseline values in digoxin equivalents (p<0.01), respectively, after three hours of exercise at 70% of VO2max. The prevalent serum nonesterified fatty acids (arachidonic, linoleic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids) as well as hydrocortisone did not account for the observed elevations in DLIF. Percent left ventricular fractional shortening (%FS) and mean velocity of left ventricular circumferential fiber shortening (mVCF) measured echocardiographically were lower (-18.0% and -16.4%, respectively, p<0.05) after exercise as compared to prior to exercise. Cardiac left ventricular dysfunction as measured by %FS did correlate with blood levels of DLIF (r=-0.680, p<0.02). These observations may suggest a relationship between serum levels of DLIF and cardiac fatigue.