Crescentic forms of glomerulonephritis are characterized by the accumulation of fibrin and cells in Bowman's space and are associated with a rapid loss of renal function. Accumulation of fibrin in the glomerular tufts is thought to promote macrophage infiltration and glomerular injury. To directly explore the role of fibrin(ogen) in the development of crescentic glomerulonephritis, antiglomerular basement membrane nephritis was induced in fibrinogen-deficient and control mice. Glomeruli from control mice developed severe disease including fibrin deposits, inflammatory cell accumulation, and crescent formation (46.3 +/- 7.3% of glomeruli). Fibrinogen-deficient mice developed significantly milder disease with fewer glomerular crescents (24.0 +/- 4.7% of glomeruli; P < 0.03). Glomerular macrophage accumulation was diminished in fibrinogen-deficient mice (0.9 +/- 0.4 macrophages/glomerular cross section) relative to control mice (3.9 +/- 1.4 macrophages/glomerular cross section; P < 0.03). Finally, renal function as assessed by serum creatinine was better maintained in fibrinogen-deficient mice. These results indicate that although fibrin(ogen) is not essential for the development of glomerular crescents, it contributes significantly to the pathogenesis of crescentic glomerulonephritis by promoting glomerular macrophage accumulation and impairing filtration.