Background: There is still limited information on systemic inflammation in alpha-1-antitrypsin-deficient (AATD) COPD patients and what effect alpha-1-antitrypsin augmentation therapy and/or exercise might have on circulating inflammatory cytokines. We hypothesized that AATD COPD patients on augmentation therapy (AATD + AUG) would have lower circulating and skeletal muscle inflammatory cytokines compared to AATD COPD patients not receiving augmentation therapy (AATD-AUG) and/or the typical non-AATD (COPD) patient. We also hypothesized that cytokine response to exercise would be lower in AATD + AUG compared to AATD-AUG or COPD subjects.Methods: Arterial and femoral venous concentration and skeletal muscle expression of TNFα, IL-6, IL-1β and CRP were measured at rest, during and up to 4-hours after 50% maximal 1-hour knee extensor exercise in all COPD patient groups, including 2 additional groups (i.e. AATD with normal lung function, and healthy age-/activity-matched controls).Results: Circulating CRP was higher in AATD + AUG (4.7 ± 1.6 mg/dL) and AATD-AUG (3.3 ± 1.2 mg/dL) compared to healthy controls (1.5 ± 0.3 mg/dL, p < 0.05), but lower in AATD compared to non-AATD-COPD patients (6.1 ± 2.6 mg/dL, p < 0.05). TNFα, IL-6 and IL-1β were significantly increased by 1.7-, 1.7-, and 4.7-fold, respectively, in non-AATD COPD compared to AATD COPD (p < 0.05), and 1.3-, 1.7-, and 2.2-fold, respectively, compared to healthy subjects (p < 0.05). Skeletal muscle TNFα was on average 3-4 fold greater in AATD-AUG compared to the other groups (p < 0.05). Exercise showed no effect on these cytokines in any of our patient groups.Conclusion: These data show that AATD COPD patients do not experience the same chronic systemic inflammation and exhibit reduced inflammation compared to non-AATD COPD patients. Augmentation therapy may help to improve muscle efflux of TNFα and reduce muscle TNFα concentration, but showed no effect on IL-6, IL-1β or CRP. © 2014 Olfert et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.