MHC II and CD4+ T cells are required for anti-glomerular basement membrane (GBM) globulin-initiated crescentic glomerulonephritis (GN) in mice, but the role of MHC I and CD8+ T cells is unclear. The cytolytic function of CD8+ T cells requires recognition of peptide antigens presented on MHC I. CD8+ T cells can also perform helper functions via cytokine production. The contribution of MHC I to crescentic GN was investigated using TAP-1 gene knock out (TAP-1-/-) mice, which have deficient MHC I antigen presentation. Heterozygous TAP-1 mice have normal MHC I expression and developed GN with crescents in 42 +/- 4% of glomeruli (normal 0%), proteinuria (9.1 +/- 1.6 mg/20 h, normal 1.5 +/- 0.3 mg/20 h) and impaired renal function (creatinine clearance 110 +/- 8 microl/min, normal 193 +/- 10 microl/min) following administration of sheep anti-mouse GBM globulin. TAP-1-/- mice, which have extremely low MHC I expression and reduced CD8+ T cells, developed similar GN with 39 +/- 3% crescents, proteinuria (12.7 +/- 4.3 mg/20 h) and impaired renal function (creatinine clearance 123 +/- 20 microl/min). In vivo antibody-induced CD8 depletion did not attenuate crescent formation or protect renal function in C57Bl/6 mice developing GN, although significant reduction in proteinuria (5.3 +/- 1.2 mg/20 h, P = 0. 012) and glomerular recruitment of CD4+ T cells and macrophages were observed compared with control treated mice with GN. These data demonstrate that MHC I is not required for development of crescentic GN in mice. The MHC I-independent contribution of CD8+ T cells to proteinuria and inflammatory cell recruitment suggests that they may serve a 'helper' rather than cytolytic role in this disease.