OBJECTIVE: Muscle wasting contributes to the reduced quality of life and increased mortality in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Muscle atrophy in mice with cachexia was caused by Activin A binding to ActRIIB. The role of circulating Activin A leading to muscle atrophy in COPD remains elusive. METHODS: In the present study, we evaluated the relationship between serum levels of Activin A and skeletal muscle wasting in COPD patients. The expression levels of serum Activin A were measured in 78 stable COPD patients and in 60 healthy controls via ELISA, which was also used to determine the expression of circulating TNF-α levels. Total skeletal muscle mass (SMM) was calculated according to a validated formula by age and anthropometric measurements. The fat-free mass index (FFMI) was determined as the fat-free mass (FFM) corrected for body surface area. RESULTS: Compared to the healthy controls, COPD patients had upregulated Activin A expression. The elevated levels of Activin A were correlated with TNF-α expression, while total SMM and FFMI were significantly decreased in COPD patients. Furthermore, serum Activin A expression in COPD patients was negatively associated with both FFMI and BMI. CONCLUSION: The above results showed an association between increased circulating Activin A in COPD patients and the presence of muscle atrophy. Given our previous knowledge, we speculate that Activin A contributes to skeletal muscle wasting in COPD.