Fibroblasts play an important role in inflammation and tissue fibrosis. Both activin A and TNF-α can activate immune cells, however, the roles and relationship of them in activating fibroblasts in inflammation remain unclear. Here, this study revealed that TNF-α promoted the release of NO and IL-6 by L929 fibroblast cells, but co-treatment with activin A attenuated these effects. In contrast, activin A induced cell migration and increased the production of tissue fibrosis-related TGF-β1 and fibronectin, while TNF-α inhibited these function changes of L929 cells induced by activin A. Moreover, this study revealed that activin A and TNF-α regulated the activities of L929 cells via ERK1/2/MAPK pathway, rather than Smad3-dependent signaling pathway. Taken together, these data indicate that activin A and TNF-α exert mutually antagonistic effects on regulating fibroblasts activities, and the balance between their action may determine the process and outcome of fibroblasts-mediated inflammation.