Physical exercise results in the appearance of heat shock protein (HSP) 72 in the circulation that precedes any increase in gene or protein expression in contracting skeletal muscle. In rodents, exercise increases liver HSP72 expression and the hepatosplanchnic viscera are known to release many acute phase proteins. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that the splanchnic tissue beds release HSP72 during exercise. Seven mate subjects performed 120 min of semi-recumbent cycling at 62 ± 2% of maximal oxygen uptake. Blood samples were obtained simultaneously from a brachial artery, a femoral vein and the hepatic vein prior to and at 30, 60 and 120 min of exercise. Leg blood flow (LBF) was measured by thermodilution in the femoral vein, and hepatosplanchnic blood flow (HBL) was measured using indocyanine green dye. Net leg and net hepatosplanchnic HSP72 balance were calculated as the product of LBF and femoral venous-arterial HSP72 difference and the product of HBF and hepatic venous-arterial HSP72 difference, respectively. Arterial plasma HSP72 was only detected in one subject at rest but progressively appeared in the arterial samples throughout exercise such that at 120 min it was detected in all subjects (0.88 ± 0.35 pg 1-1; P < 0.05 compared with rest). The contracting muscle did not, however, contribute to this increase since there was no difference in the femoral venous-arterial HSP72 concentration at anytime. Rather, the increase in arterial HSP72 was accounted for, at least in part, by release from the hepatosplanchnic viscera with values increasing (P < 0.05) from undetectable levels at rest to 5.2 ± 0.2 pg min-1 after 120 min. These data demonstrate that the splanchnic tissues release HSP72 during exercise and this release is responsible, in part, for the elevated systemic concentration of this protein during exercise.