The complement component C5a is a potent inflammatory peptide, which may be involved in the pathogenesis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We analysed the induced sputum and plasma of 28 patients with stable COPD, 12 healthy smokers and 7 non-smokers. In 13 of the patients with COPD, we also observed paired samples during acute exacerbation. The concentrations of C5a/C5a desArg and C3a/C3a desArg were measured using cytometric bead array. Both C5a and C3a concentrations in induced sputum of stable patients with COPD were significantly increased compared to the control groups of healthy smokers and non-smokers. In addition, there was a significant elevation in C5a values in exacerbation of COPD that was independent from the airway C3a levels. Airway C5a levels were negatively correlated with forced expiratory volume in first second (FEV1)% predicted and diffusing capacity of the lung (TLCO). Plasma C5a concentrations in patients with COPD were significantly higher than in healthy smokers, but no further significant systemic C5a elevation was detected with acute exacerbation of COPD. There was no important difference in local or systemic C5a concentrations between healthy smokers and non-smokers. These in vivo results clearly show that local and systemic C5a concentrations in COPD are elevated, and that the local, in contrast to systemic, C5a concentrations additionally increase in the acute exacerbation of COPD. It seems that the cigarette smoke is not related to C5a increase. The elevated local and systemic C5a levels, and additional individual local C5a increase during the exacerbation support the importance of C5a in COPD.