In many diseases and acute inflammatory disorders, important components of pathological processes are linked to the neutrophils' ability to release a complex assortment of agents that can destroy normal cells and dissolve connective tissue. This review summarizes the mechanisms of tissue destruction by neutrophils and the role of kidney-specific factors that promote this effect. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate H (NADPH) oxidase is a membrane-associated enzyme that generates a family of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI). There is increasing evidence that ROIs are implicated in glomerular pathophysiology: ROIs contribute to the development of proteinuria, alter glomerular filtration rate, and induce morphological changes in glomerular cells. Specific neutrophil granules contain microbicidal peptides, proteins, and proteolytic enzymes, which mediate the dissolution of extracellular matrix, harm cell structures or cell function, and induce acute and potentially irreparable damage. Although both ROI and neutrophil-derived proteases alone have the potential for tissue destruction, it is their synergism that circumvents the intrinsic barriers designed to protect the host. Even small amounts of ROI can generate hypochlorus acid (HOCl) in the presence of neutrophil-derived myeloperoxidase (MPO) and initiate the deactivation of antiproteases and activation of latent proteases, which lead to tissue damage if not properly controlled. In addition, neutrophil-derived phospholipase products such as leukotrienes and platelet-activating factor contribute to vascular changes in acute inflammation and amplify tissue damage. Increasing evidence suggests that mesangial cells and neutrophils release chemotactic substances (eg, interleukin 8), which further promote neutrophil migration to the kidney, activate neutrophils, and increase glomerular injury. Also, the expression of adhesion molecules (eg, intercellular adhesion molecule 1 on kidney-specific cells and beta-2-integrins on leukocytes) has been correlated with the degree of injury in various forms of glomerulonephritis or after ischemia and reperfusion. Together, these results suggest that neutrophils and adhesion molecules play an important role in mediating tissue injury with subsequent renal failure. Conversely, chronic renal failure reduces neutrophil function and thereby can increase susceptibility to infection and sepsis.